The Nanaimo International Jazz Festival

September 17, 2018

It’s only natural that Nanaimo, with it’s rich and vibrant music scene, play host to such an incredible event as the Nanaimo Jazz Festival. Last year was the first of these festivals; this year, in 2018, it returns for the second time to welcome performers from across the globe. On September 21-23, musicians will gather in our pocket of Vancouver Island for a tremendous weekend of musical performances and celebration.

Recently, we connected with Festival Administrator Jill Smith, to learn more about this incredible event. Here is what we found out:

Last year was the inaugural Nanaimo Jazz Festival; what did you learn from putting on the event and how are you taking it to the next level this year?

The key to everything is: Great Music by Great Musicians for Great Audiences. Jazz music has a deep tradition – born in New Orleans from the parents of Ragtime and Blues. We strive to celebrate that lineage in the 21st century. Jazz is a recognized art form – but it is also fun and entertaining. Inaugural festivals are intrinsically challenging, and the 2017 Nanaimo Jazz Fest was no exception. But we had a great time and jazz music was enjoyed by many people that weekend.

We have had really good feedback and are excited to be putting on our second festival this September. We are looking to the future and planning accordingly. We want to continue to bring Nanaimo great local and international jazz, at a professional level. We also learnt that we have a great set of supporters in our City and we could not have done the festival without them. We have some milestones and learning behind us and some new adventures in just a few weeks. We also have an exciting new community partnership with the Port Theatre.

Not only did you put on a major festival last September, but you hosted events throughout the year, like the Friday Concert Series and Sounds of Summer. Can you share a highlight from one of those?

One of our Friday Concert Series Featured Andrew Homzy’s “Sax-No-End”. Our tagline was 5 Saxophonists, 50 fingers, 217 keys, thousands of notes, tons of fun. Besides the evening
being a great one of professional live jazz, we had the fire alarm go off right before show. It was a false alarm, but all the musicians were standing outside waiting for the okay to start the show. The show did go on!

If you could invite one jazz heavy hitter to the festival, who would it be?

As jazz moves into its 2nd century, many of the innovative masters are gone. However, a number of 2nd and 3rd generation giants are at the top of their game: From the United States, we like to bring Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and a youngster, Wynton Marsalis, to Nanaimo.

Every Canadian province has wonderful jazz artists; the list would fill this page. Of course, we would love to bring home the jazz greats that grew up in this great city, like Diana Krall or either or both! Ingrid and Christine Jensen. It is truly amazing the musical talents that had their early beginning on Vancouver Island.

What are the top 3 things festival-goers should know about this year’s jazz festival?

Our jazz festival strives to be an “affordable” and “accessible” environ to enjoy live jazz music. We create collaborative environments for new and established musicians, with our workshop for students and Midnight Jam sessions. We are multi-skilled group pulling together a “professional” festival in the late Summer and live jazz music throughout the winter. We hear there are tons of fun partnerships with local Nanaimo businesses.

What should folks expect to find when they attend?

Three great Nanaimo restaurants have joined forces with the Nanaimo Jazz Fest to host live music throughout the festival. They are Café Modern, White Sails Brewing and Minnoz – all great downtown spots.

Are there any other community partners you would like to give a shoutout to?

We have a Community Partnership with the Port Theatre which is new for us this year. We enjoy a very supportive relationship with TD Bank on Nicol Street. A full list of our sponsors & amp; donors can be found on our website – https://nanaimojazzfest.ca/

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