ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — This year’s CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival will be held June 17-25 in Rochester.

Festival Executive Director and Co-Producer Marc Iacona discussed the highly anticipated community event Wednesday during our Greater Rochester Enterprise Why ROC conversation.

“It feels like the first one since the two-year hiatus of the festival,” Iacona said of the COVID-inspired break. “Our team is all excited. We are a little bit nervous but it’s good to be nervous so you make sure you’re on top of things.”

There will be over 325 performances, including 130 free shows, across 19 open-air and indoor venues in Rochester.

Iacona said that he along with fellow Producer and Artistic Director John Nugent wanted to put an emphasis on free concerts this year. “We were fortunate to receive government funding that was called the SVOG, Save our Stages, that was championed by Senator Schumer. We took that grant and made a decision, instead of putting what we could do into our infrastructure and planning for the future, we made a decision to take a major, major part of that grant and provide all free programming versus ticketed programming in our headliner series that is normally at Eastman Theatre.”

Parcel 5, called the Midtown Stage, will have three free shows a night at 5:00, 7:00, and the headliner at 9:00 p.m.

“It’s going to be for nine nights,” said Iacona. “So that’s going to be really exciting in terms of the value that we’re able to bring to the community. Jazz Street will be there. Gibbs Street will be shut down for nine nights of programming from 4:00 p.m. all the way through 10:30 p.m. The Hyatt is a new Club Pass venue for us. It will host the jam session that is down below at the old restaurant, accommodating more people. The Theatre at Innovation Square – the old Xerox Auditorium – is beautifully renovated and is part of our Club Pass series. There are going to be some great shows there as well.”

As always, this year’s Jazz Festival will feature plenty of local musicians.

“We have an appreciation for the artists and people in our own backyard and regionally,” Iacona explained. “So you’ll see that programming of those local artists who are playing at 5 0’clock on Parcel 5 and throughout the Club Pass series. We’re proud to be able to say we’re allowing our local professional musicians – young and veterans – to play at the festival. We’ve had people like Steve Gadd come from Rochester. Chuck and Gap Mangione too – many people who have come through Rochester that were once regional and local professional musicians and obviously now world-renowned.”

Over 200,000 people attended the Jazz Festival in 2019. The annual event has a loyal following and Iacona believes he knows why.

“The consistency of the programming, the way we run the event – we’re not perfect but we really try to start things on time and try to accommodate everyone,” he said. “I think it’s just one of those events that bring the community together and this year is where we really want to feel that harmony and love in terms of all getting back together again no matter what the venue is.”

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