Pensacola JazzFest

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It’s that time of year when the Jazz Society of Pensacola (JSOP) presents its free gift to the City, the annual Pensacola JazzFest. Twenty-five years ago, JSOP, The Arts Council of NW FL and WUWF founded JazzFest. It has been an annual event since that time, and JSOP has been the producer since 1999. This year’s event, to be held on April 5 and 6 in Seville Square, will feature internationally known artists as well as local performers and regional youth groups.

Over the years JazzFest has attracted fans from our neighboring states. Many snowbirds, including Canadians, schedule their spring vacations in order to attend. Before my wife and I moved here from Georgia we would try to come every year to just sit in the park for two days, enjoy a snack and a beverage or two and listen to great music.

The festival is always a great show with wide audience appeal. Whatever kind of jazz you like, or even if you're not quite sure you like jazz at all, you will discover some music you like. Nationally known headliners this year include Butch Thompson’s Big Three. Butch Thompson plays Dixieland style music and is well known for his appearances on Prairie Home Companion. Also appearing will be The Shelly Berg Trio. Shelly Berg is an accomplished pianist who plays jazz styles from ragtime to modern. He is frequently requested as accompanist for Monica Mancini, Patti Austin and other vocalists and jazz legends. The Jazz Guardians, an 18-member big band stationed at Army Ft. McPherson, GA, will perform in the style of big bands of yesteryear paying tribute to Duke Ellington, Woody Herman and Count Basie as well as contemporary big band jazz. Saxophonist Dayve Stewart. known as “Soul Man,” Dayve will entertain with the smooth sounds of contemporary jazz. Local artists include Bob Maksymkow, Holly Shelton, The Guffman Trio, Bobby VanDeusen, and the Dixieland Dandies. College groups will include the PJC Jazz Band and the UWF Jazz Band.

Although this event costs around $40,000 to produce, JSOP makes it free to the public. This is possible through merchandise and beer & wine sales at the event, the efforts of our many volunteers who help put on events throughout the year, generous gifts from very special friends of jazz and wonderful support from our corporate sponsors. This year’s corporate sponsors include Baptist Health Care, Budweiser, Gulf Breeze Quality Inn and Suites, Phillips/UWF Jazz Piano Competition, Fish House, Pepsi, Pensacola News Journal, Independent News, WEAR-TV, Soft Rock 94.1; EW Bullock and Associates, Tornado Fence, Ted Ciano, Southern Media and Albertson's. Additional sponsors are always welcomed.

So all you have to do is show up at Seville Square and enjoy the music (continuous from noon to around 6:00 p.m.) Great jazz merchandise will be available for purchase: JazzFest posters, T-shirts, hats, etc. Food venders will be there. Beer, wine, and soft drinks may be purchased at reasonable prices. Seating is available; or you are welcome to bring your own blanket or chair. It is fun for the whole family, but just be sure to leave your dogs at home to comply with city ordinance.

In summary, JazzFest is good for jazz and it is good for Pensacola. Jazz, America's original art form, gets a little boost in our community; and the 16,000 or so people in our community who attend JazzFest get a little boost from hearing some good music. And then there is the economic impact of visitors from around the U.S. and even foreign countries. Successful festivals, such as Pensacola JazzFest, are good for Pensacola and deserve community support. Learn more by visiting the JSOP website at [1].