2021 Rochester International Jazz Festival canceled

Around Town

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — COVID-19 strikes again.

Not long after the Rochester International Jazz Festival announced it was holding the festival in July at Rochester Institute of Technology, organizers John Nugent and Marc Iacona announced Monday that the festival would be postponed until 2022.

“We are disappointed to announce that the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival 19th Edition will be postponed to June 17 to 25, 2022. We will be back next year and are committed to making every effort to move forward in downtown Rochester and also explore expanding the Festival with programming at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT),” said Iacona and Nugent in a press release Monday.

The team originally announced in February that the festival would be at RIT. Then, they said the decision was made in hopes that vaccinations will be more widespread, and will take place when classes aren’t in session at the campus.

Nugent and Iacona spoke to News 8 over Zoom, both with a noticeable affect of despondency, but trying to be hopeful. Iacona addressed the original concern over moving the festival to RIT.

“(Everyone at RIJF) understands the concern that everybody had about the festival leaving the city and going out to the campus,” Iacona said. “We said from the beginning and that’s a sound reiterated again.”

The organizers also said that RIT’s ventilation systems would be a benefit when holding this festival.

The organizers said that the current restrictions would make it “economically unfeasible” to hold a festival.

“We just don’t have enough space to be able to make this an effective presentation. It’s the same with festivals all over the world,” Nugent said over a Zoom interview. “We didn’t want to cancel. We wanted to try to see if the things could be lifted a little bit and we could get people together. And it just, it just hasn’t happened in a timely fashion.”

“The thing is that we have budgets for everything… we have budgets for each venue,” Iacona said. “There are artists that are a certain investment level in terms of whether it’s club pass series or ticketed shows or outside free events.

“Like any organization, if one part of your organization is outperforming the other part, it’s subsidizing the non-performance and hopefully you’re making enough there so that you can reinvest back in,” Iacona continued. “So that’s what goes through our minds. And those were things that are risk every year when that risk becomes even larger, the known you don’t have because of what’s going on, that makes us concerned.”

Nugent discussed how sports teams and stadiums have the luxury to rely more TV revenues, and merchandise. When they operate, according to him, they’re doing it “to lose less.”

“Like for us, with 40% capacity, we’ve got to be able to hopefully make a profit, to continue to grow our festival and keep it reasonable going forward. We have to ask all the artists, all our suppliers to take 60% reduction to be able to make it so we can have a chance to be successful,” he said.

On top of the pay reduction, Nugent adds that many of the international artists that fill up their Nordic and “Made in the UK” series aren’t able to come into the US. He also adds that the RIJF wouldn’t be able to create the infrastructure to handle checking test results, or to use the Excelsior Pass.

“It’s not that we wanted to postpone trust me. We did everything we could. We didn’t cause COVID, (and) our patrons didn’t cause COVID,” Nugent said.

“This is an act of God.”

Iacona says a lot of his sadness is letting down his patrons, but also having to tell everyone who makes the festival happen that it will be postponed again.

“Everyone involved in the festival that doesn’t get as much recognition as, as they should just because that’s there behind the curtain, right,” Iacona said. “Making it happen, they look forward to it. And there are businesses that look forward to it that we outsource to. That’s the part that’s tough for us to communicate.”

Nugent referenced 2022 as the start of “the next Roaring 20s,” and said that the same spirit of the 1920s is similar to the goals of the RIJF.

“The bottom line is the festival is all about being tightly packed together, hugging and kissing them, seeing people in the lineups and celebrating closeness and togetherness,” Nugent said.

Nugent said that for 2022, the festival is a blank canvas, and he’s still gathering all of the paint.

Iacona went out of his way to make sure that local bands will have a place to play.

“I want to make sure that the local professional musicians and regional (acts) that we have communicated with, that’d be part of the program for 2019,” he said. “If they’re still around and still performing, that commitment is there to them. They’re part of our community. And we owe that to them.”

The festival also announced FAQs; which have been posted at RochesterJazz.com.

They also announced these refunds:

  • Club Passes – as previously announced, in consideration of these unprecedented times, the Club Pass, which is a value pass to a festival series and not a ticket to a specific show on a specific date, may be redeemed in either 2022 or 2023. Passes may also be shared or transferred.
  • Club Passes for the 2022 Festival will go on sale in October.
  • Headliner concert tickets to 19th Edition shows that were canceled have been refunded. Anyone who purchased 19th Edition headliner tickets and has not received a refund should email info@rochesterjazz.com with their ticket order number and current address and their refund will be processed.

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