MONTCLAIR, NJ – In a few weeks, thousands of jazz lovers will converge on Montclair’s Nishuane Park for the annual Montclair Jazz Festival on Saturday, Aug. 15.
The brainchild of Melissa Walker, president and founder of local nonprofit Jazz House Kids, the Montclair Jazz Festival is the organization’s opportunity to showcase the talent of their students as well as highlight some of the greatest jazz musicians in the business. The annual event has grown from humble beginnings to become one of the most talked about events of the summer.
Now in its sixth year and growing larger each year, headliners include the Paquito D'Rivera Quintet, José James, the Christian McBride Big Band featuring Walker and Radam Schwartz + Organized with award-winning actor S. Epatha Merkerson returning as mistress of ceremony. Together these talents have garnered more than 20 Grammy Awards, DownBeat Best Artist of the Year awards, Golden Globes and Emmys.
Made possible with the support of this year's presenting sponsor, the Bravitas Group and Silver Family Foundation, attendees will also be entertained by performances of the Jazz House Faculty Collective and Jazz House Kids student ensembles throughout the day. More than 150 students at Jazz House Kids will take the stage to perform.
"I am thrilled with the level of community engagement of local businesses and our community partners led by Bob and Rhonda Silver and the Bravitas Group," said Walker. "Together we are ensuring that the Montclair Jazz Festival remains a free, no tickets required event."
The Montclair Jazz Festival organizers held a mixer Wednesday evening to introduce the sponsors of this year's event. The night of mixing-and-mingling featured appearances by headliners and festival artists, including four-time Grammy Award-winning bassist and artistic director of the Montclair Jazz Festival McBride, and actor and mistress of ceremonies S. Epatha Merkerson. Best known for her 17-season run as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on NBC's "Law and Order," for which she won three NAACP Image Awards, this fall Merkerson will star in a new NBC drama, "Chicago Medical," produced by Dick Wolf.
Walker spoke of her vision for Jazz House Kids and how she was able to bring it to fruition. She also mentioned her gratitude for the sponsors and those who have helped to make the festival happen.
Walker said, "At the beginning, there weren't many...300." With over 6000 attendees during last year's event, Walker jokingly bantered with Mayor Robert Jackson by projecting that there will be double that amount of people attending this year. She continued, "It's about bringing together a community with no tickets required. It's about making sure that we come together to celebrate America's homegrown music called Jazz."
The Bravitas Group, a Montclair-based firm founded in 2006, has emerged along with the Silver Family Foundation to sponsor the Montclair Jazz Festival.
Walker added that Jazz House Kids serves over 45,000 students and "100 percent of our students have gone on to college. She added that many of the students receive scholarships and go on to attend prestigious music schools. "We are talking $800,000 in scholarships." Walker continued, "More of our students study at Julliard than any other institution in the entire world." Walker also spoke of her recent trip to Peru with 13 Jazz House Kinds students stating, "We were invited by the U.S. Embassy."
North Coast Brewing Co., specializing in craft beer, along with TD Bank and the Cali Family, will be the stage sponsor of the Montclair Jazz festival. The New Jersey Department of State, Division of Travel and Tourism, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) have also supported the Montclair Jazz festival with a grant.
Supporting the Montclair Jazz Festival as Artist Tent Sponsor this year is The Hampshire Companies/The Pinnacle Companies. Emerging Artist Sponsors include Arctic Glacier, Fodera Guitars/The DeSalvo Family, Clara Maass Medical Center/Barnabas Health and PNC Wealth Management.
Fran Monteleone, Director of Physician Services and Community Outreach at Clara Maass Medical Center, said, "We were so excited about sponsoring this event." Monteleone said that they will also be donating 200 backpacks to Jazz House Kids. She was accompanied by Lou Lasalle of Barnabas Health who said that their organization got involved because they are "concerned with supporting the community."
Other Festival partners include the County of Essex, Montclair Township, Montclair Public Library, Montclair Art Museum, Pig & Prince, Egan & Sons, Howl at the Creative Moon, Gibson Entertainment Services, andRDM, with media sponsors WBGO 88.3 FM, WNYC New York Public Radio, JazzTimes, The Montclair Times, Baristanet and TapInto Montclair.
Macy's, which has joined as the official sponsor of the Montclair Jazz Festival's Family Jazz Discovery Zone, a family-friendly designated area within the festival grounds that will feature healthy snacks, music-related story books read by festival musicians, and a host of art activities for children.
"This is a year of many firsts for Jazz House Kids and our Montclair Jazz Festival," says Walker. "We're bringing the festival to a global audience by live-streaming the event on our website, thanks to a partnership with Remote Digital Media." Jazz lovers around the globe can tune in tomontclairjazzfestival.org on Saturday, August 15 between 12 noon and 9:00 pm EST to watch it live.
In early August, the Montclair Jazz Festival will launch its free Mid-day Summer Concert Series, curated by festival artistic director McBride and featuring great artists such as Billy Hart, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Geoff Keezer, Schwartz, and the acclaimed Jazz House Faculty Collective. Held at Montclair State University's outdoor amphitheater, the afternoon concerts are open to the public with no tickets required.
The festival weekend officially begins with the North Coast Brewmaster Festival Kickoff, a dinner and intimate sampling of highly-rated ales, on August 13 at Montclair's Pig & Prince Restaurant. Tickets are $100.
The party does not end after the stage lights dim. Jazz House Kids will host a post-Festival jam session party on August 15 from 9:00 pm - 2:00 am at Egan & Sons in West Orange, which is walking distance from Nishuane Park. The after party has a $10 cover charge. 100% of the proceeds from the Brewmaster and Post-Festival Jam support Jazz House Kids. For more information on the Montclair Jazz Festival and pre- and post- events, visit www.montclairjazzfestival.org.