2017: Discovering the Unexpected, Continuing the Celebration
By Sunny Sumter, Executive Director
It hardly seems like only two weeks since the June DC JazzFest came and went. This has been a breathless year as we all continue to move forward with and for the advancement of jazz in our nation’s capital. Just a few short months ago, my team and I were reflecting on our 2016 Festival. With our very smart and dedicated board, we strategically examined ways to make the DC JazzFest brighter and better as we continue to serve as a unifying cultural force in DC. From new partners including the Kreeger Museum on Foxhall Road and The Alex Cocktail Bar & Speakeasy in Georgetown to returning partners like Gallery O on H in Northeast and the Anacostia Playhouse, we came together this June as a diverse city under the umbrella of all things jazz. And as an arts organization in a city where divisive headlines make a showing every day, this was no small undertaking!
The "come together" spirit was intentionally planned. This year, after a series of meetings with cultural thought leaders and DC stakeholders interested in investing time and resources in our citywide programming, my team doubled down to make the DC JazzFest an inclusive celebration of life and art. We delighted in welcoming festival-goers from South Korea, England, California, Iowa and Hawaii – and, of course, our DC residents. I could not be more proud of the result.
Artistic Director Willard Jenkins deserves a round of applause for a job so well done. Working closely with our curating partners, Willard gave us a smorgasbord of varying delights featuring the likes of GRAMMY Award-winners Pat Metheny, Lalah Hathaway, Gregory Porter, Kenny Garrett, Robert Glasper, Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, Black Violin, and Jacob Collier. Our plethora of gifted jazz talent in DC included Aaron Myers, Allyn Johnson, Nasar Abadey, Herb Scott, Akua Allrich, Tommy Cecil, Reginald Cyntje, Leigh Pilzer and many more. The 2017 DC JazzFest featured something for everyone, and included our national band competition, DCJazzPrix.
Our family circle held strong hands this year with dedicated main stage partners including Events DC, the Kennedy Center, Sixth & I, the Howard Theatre, UDC JazzAlive, The Phillips Collection, CapitalBop, East River Jazz, NYU DC, Yards Park and Capitol Riverfront BID. We also thank our fantastic production team for DC JazzFest at the Yards: BZB International and CD Enterprises.
Additionally, we witnessed the blossoming of our Education, Embassy, and Jazz in the ‘Hoods programming that made outstanding jazz performances and education programs available across all four quadrants of the city. Residents of more than 20 DC neighborhoods enjoyed these expansive and accessible programs, a majority of which were free! A personal highlight for me was the fantastic DC-resident performances at The Phillips Collection at our Jazz ‘n Families Fun Days, which attracted 5,100 attendees, young and old. You – the families who value the arts as an essential part of your lives – continue to bring your children and grandchildren. You scavenger hunted, you participated in the interactive concerts at this free family weekend, and your helped us celebrate the synergy of jazz and the visual arts. It was engaging and fun.
Finally, I want to give it up for my small but mighty staff team – Willard, Mark, Mikki, Aqmeri, Rochelle, Karen and Kelly – who work tirelessly to make the festival sing! I must add that we had the most dedicated interns ever – you added the harmony!
I am so happy to say that we are all fireworks and flying colors here at the DC Jazz Festival office. We look forward to finishing out this year of successes and excitement. It has been a deeply rewarding year, elevated by our triumphs over all challenges to present a most dynamic celebration of America’s music – jazz! Together, we discovered something new and unexpected, celebrated our diversity and, most importantly, got our jazz party on! Happy 4th of July!