ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — This year’s CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival is going to look very different — the festival could be held at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The festival is waiting until the spring to officially move forward. They are also waiting on public health approval to announce the full lineup.
The festival will be moved to late July 30 and run through August 7. The festival organizers say this move “will allow organizers more flexible space to accommodate anticipated health guidelines that will likely dictate increased audience spacing.”
However, since the festival is planning on not being in the City of Rochester, city officials have confirmed that the festival will not be receiving city funding. That money usually goes to maintaining, and providing security for the large outdoor shows.
Organizers say that funding is a fraction of what they need to produce a show.
The decision was also made in hopes that vaccinations will be more widespread, and will take place when classes aren’t in session at the campus. The organizers also said that RIT’s ventilation systems would be a benefit when holding this festival.
While they didn’t specify whether all shows would be outside or inside, they factored in RIT’s space outside, as well as the flexibility of inside options. They add that RIT is still close enough to Rochester to allow for quick travel, they are also taking steps to make sure that the City of Rochester is involved and that people have easy access.
John Nugent, the festival’s artistic director, said that many major jazz festivals across the country have parking that is miles away.
“We will create a festive atmosphere including a Jazz Street, assure the ability to walk between venues, and offer a shuttle service,” he said.
This announcement comes after the festival was essentially canceled twice last year amid the pandemic.
“I think the community is starting to realize how important and vital this festival has been to the community,” Nugent said. “I’m not speaking for everybody. Sometimes I think people take things for a little, for granted in this community. There’s a lot of work and hard that goes into it. A lot of sweat, a lot of risk, and we are going to do what’s best for the festival, for the music, and for the company that runs the event. That’s what we have to do. I mean, otherwise we’re not, we’re not good business people. And so what we’re doing, what we can this year, and let’s just see how things develop.”
Nugent also addressed some online commentary that people felt either abandoned, or felt as though he and fellow producer Marc Iacona didn’t have the best for Rochester in mind.
“You know, we’re not trying to abandon anybody,” he said. “We’re not trying to just say, ‘see you later.’ We’re making a concerted effort to do something in 2021 for our community, and this place where we’re going to do it is the safest and most viable way to do it.
A little bit of patience is all we’re asking for,” he said. “We’re hoping to give some people a little bit optimism, and hope for what could be a really great summer.”
The announcement also comes hot on the heels of another boon for RIT; a NY PopsUp show they’re hosting with Garth Fagan Dance.
“The Jazz Fest aligns well with our mission as a university that works at the intersection of technology, the arts, and design,” said RIT President David Munson. “We have almost unlimited space for outdoor performance venues and ample adjacent parking. We’ve also invested more than $8 million in COVID-related infrastructure upgrades, including 3,000 new air purification systems and a variety of touchless technologies.
The festival adds this as well:
As previously announced, producers are committed to honoring agreements with as many artists as possible who were originally booked for the original 19th edition in June 2020. TicketsClub Pass holders will be able to use their passes at this year’s Festival in 2021 or 2022 or 2023.
The two headliner shows, Spyro Gyra and Puss N Boots, which are currently scheduled for June, will be canceled and refunds will be provided to all ticketholders. An email is being sent today to every ticketholder with refund information.
County Legislator candidate Mercedez Vasquez Simmons is urging organizers to reconsider the move due to the potential financial impact this could have on downtown Rochester businesses.
“We have to look for an alternative location in the downtown area. Perhaps we should consider the baseball or soccer stadium,” Vasquez Simmons said in a statement. “Jazz Festival not only brought financial benefit to the city but it helped reconnected many to the city. It served as a cultural bridge connecting individuals from all walks of life. I worry this connection will no longer exist if the event location changes..”
City Councilmember Mary Lupien provided a statement:
”The Jazz Festival has received $243,000 in City Funding for years and brought vibrancy and millions of dollars to our community. However, if the Jazz Festival is not hosted in the City of Rochester, I would not support any of our City’s money going towards the festival. The Rochester Fringe Festival also brings millions to the community, yet receives only a fraction of the funding. I support transferring Jazz Fest funding to the Fringe Festival to support their incredible free public events in Rochester’s downtown.”