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.
After a three-year hiatus for the Northampton Jazz Festival, an active group of area musicians and dedicated community members has revived the popular downtown music event by forming a board of directors to govern it.
The festival secured 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in late 2014. The eight-member board, led by president Ruth Griggs, of Northampton, is currently at work planning the 2018 Northampton Jazz Festival. “We are thrilled to be able to carry forward our great American music tradition of live jazz right in downtown Northampton. In 2018, we will honor this mission in new and meaningful ways,” Griggs said. “We are renewing the fest with a rich line-up of jazz artists from across the globe and around the region.”
HISTORY OF THE FESTIVAL
The Northampton Jazz Festival was founded in 2011 by a group who wished to stage an event that brought out the community as the former “Taste of Northampton” once did in the early 2000s.
The Northampton Jazz Festival was produced annually for five years in the Armory Street Parking Lot behind Thornes Marketplace until 2015, when a lack of financial support caused organizers to suspend operations. The festival was free, open to the public and drew upwards of 5,000 individuals from around New England.
A NEW MODEL FOR THE FESTIVAL
Griggs said that the festival board is actively partnering with the Downtown Northampton Association (DNA) directed by Amy Cahillane to help ensure the success of the event. “Amy’s involvement has been a major inspiration for us to bring live jazz music back to downtown Northampton,” Griggs said.A collaboration with the Northampton public schools is also underway. “We want to work toward creating a program to bring more live jazz and encourage jazz exposure and musicianship in the Northampton public schools,” Griggs said. “We‘d like to reach more individuals who would like to learn to play a jazz instrument or sing but may not have the awareness or access to do so.”
AN ACTIVE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
In addition to Griggs, board members for the Northampton Jazz Festival are: treasurer, Alan Blankenship, of Chicopee; clerk, Jesse Adams, of Florence; and directors, Paul Arslanian, of Northampton; David Picchi, of Holyoke; Carolyn Smith, of Easthampton; George Kaye, of Hadley; and Kathy Service, of Northampton.
Board members are actively raising funds to support the festival at this time. To make a donation email firstname.lastname@example.org and information will be sent to you or go online to northampotnjazzfest.org/support.
Paul Arslanian, who had an active role in the previous festival as creative director, said, “The Northampton Jazz Festival is needed to bring back live music to downtown Northampton, which has been in demand by residents and visitors alike. We are consciously staging performances at venues all around the city so people can patronize the restaurants and shops downtown in between shows.” Arslanian said the festival will provide a meaningful and unique public performance opportunity for young and rising jazz performers in the area as well as to bring the general public a positive and family-friendly experience.
THREE DAYS OF JAZZ IN DOWNTOWN NORTHAMPTON
This year’s festival will begin Friday, Oct. 19, with the traditional Jazz Strut through downtown, when the city’s restaurants, bars and pubs will host small jazz ensembles—resident artists from the Valley—all evening long.
Saturday’s music line up will involve some of Northampton’s oldest music venues, such as the Unitarian Society on Main Street. “We’ll also be staging performances at some of Northampton’s newest venues, such as Click Workspace and the recently renovated Pulaski Park,” Griggs said. “The main stage concert will be held on Saturday night at the Academy of Music Theatre.”
Sunday, a swinging Jazz Brunch at The Hotel Northampton will be held as a fundraiser to advance the jazz musicianship program in the works for Northampton public schools.
For more information visit Facebook at www.facebook.com/northamptonjazzfest
Written By Janice Beetle
Janice is a writer and PR specialist and owner of Beetle Press in Easthampton, MA.