When four board members spoke about reviving the Northampton Jazz Festival at the April meeting of the Downtown Northampton Association (DNA), this was the reaction from Cathy Cross, owner of Cathy Cross Fashion for Women. I couldn’t be more pleased as this is precisely the buzz we are trying to create with the new model for the Northampton Jazz Festival, founded in 2011.
The festival ran for five years in a tented stage area in the Armory Street parking lot behind Thornes Marketplace. The costs to stage such an event grew to about $50,000, which was not sustainable from a fundraising perspective. (The Northampton Jazz Festival is a 501(c)(3).) In collaboration with Amy Cahillane, Director of the DNA, we quickly agreed upon a less expensive, far more inclusive way to stage the festival: to stage the performances at a host of different venues downtown. And bring economic vitality to the downtown at the same time.
Friday night’s Jazz Strut on October 19 will feature small jazz ensembles at seven or eight different bars and restaurants downtown free of charge to patrons who can stroll, strut or crawl from one to the other all night and catch different acts as they go. Saturday’s all-day free concerts will take place at Click Workspace on Market Street, The Parlor Room on Masonic Street, the Unitarian Society on Main Street, in Thornes Marketplace, and end up in Pulaski Park—the one outdoor venue. After the main stage concert with Latin jazz legend Paquito D’Rivera and his Quintet at the Academy of Music Saturday night (a ticketed event), The Hotel Northampton is sponsoring a jazz brunch, which will be a delicious fundraiser for a new program we are initiating to bring professional jazz musicians into the Northampton Public Schools to advance jazz education. Vocalist Linda Ransom, trombonist Steve Davis and the Green Street Trio will entertain the guests, and a JFK Middle School jazz band will greet the guests as they arrive.
Three days of jazz in downtown Northampton at the height of the fall tourist season when being in New England is a must-do.
Three days of keeping the focus of visitors’ attention right on downtown Northampton, with planned breaks between shows to encourage visitors to shop, dine and view the many creative shops, galleries and food establishments throughout downtown.
Three days of bringing economic vitality to downtown Northampton Massachusetts and ensuring its place as one of the most vibrant and popular downtowns in the United States.
We do hope it’s the best thing that happens to downtown Northampton in 10 years. We hope you come and find out yourself.
Written by Ruth Griggs
Ruth is the president of the Northampton Jazz Festival and founder and owner of strategic marketing communications firm RC Communications in Northampton.