Jazz Fest to return this summer, but not downtown

Jazz Fest to return this summer, but not downtown

The CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival has been put back on the calendar this year, festival producers said Thursday.

Producers Marc Iacona and John Nugent have slated the popular event for July 30 to Aug. 7 at Rochester Institute of Technology. Plans are dependent on New York’s public health guidelines being favorable for both travel and large gatherings.

The decision to move forward will be made in the spring, officials said.

The move from downtown Rochester to RIT will allow organizers more flexible space to accommodate health guidelines that likely will dictate increased audience spacing. The move from June to July and August will enable more people to be vaccinated and give the festival optimal use of RIT’s space because it will be between semesters.

“With COVID-19 and health consequences squarely on the minds of all event-goers around the world, we again find ourselves at a crossroads,” said Iacona and Nugent in a statement. “We are deeply grateful to our loyal patrons and sponsors and for countless messages of support as uncertainty prevails. Early February now brings us to a critical junction as we explore how to potentially present a festival, secure programming, and put together the plethora of logistics.”

The CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival will return this July and August. (photo provided)
The CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival will return this July and August. (photo provided)

The festival’s 19th edition was postponed twice because of the pandemic. It originally was scheduled for June 19 through 27, 2020, then rescheduled for Oct. 2 through 10, 2020, and eventually postponed to June 18 through 26, 2021. More than 208,000 people attend the nine-day annual event, coming from more than half of the states nationwide and 20 countries to see more than 325 shows, and 1,750 artists perform.

“Planning is a challenge when we don’t know what the future will bring. We do know that this year’s festival cannot go on as usual. The way we work and how we live has changed,” Iacona said. “We are very encouraged that vaccines are becoming more available. And if public health guidelines allow us to proceed this summer, we must adapt to this new environment, which will require a more flexible and spacious festival footprint. The RIT campus meets that criteria.”

Officials said Club Pass holders will be able to use their passes at this year’s festival or in 2022 or 2023. The two headliner shows, Spyro Gyra and Puss N Boots, which were scheduled for June, will be canceled and refunds will be provided to all ticketholders. An email is being sent to every ticketholder with refund information.

“The essence of our festival has always been to bring our community together, drawn by the majesty of creative improvised music and celebrating as one entity. While this new location will be a change for us all, and the first time we are not downtown, we will still shine the musical spotlight on greater Rochester,” Nugent said. “We are committed to making every effort to include the city of Rochester and many of our downtown-based partners at this new location. We will create a festive atmosphere including a Jazz Street, assure the ability to walk between venues and offer a shuttle service.”

As plans evolve over the next few months the producers will assess RIT’s many venue options. If public health officials give the green light to proceed, the lineup will be finalized and announced in the spring. 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.

“RIT embodies community pride and involvement. When asked to serve as the host venue for the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival in 2021, we were happy to comply by offering an expansive setting where COVID safety precautions can be observed,” said RIT President David Munson. “The Jazz Fest aligns well with our mission as a university that works at the intersection of technology, the arts and design. 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. This should provide for a safe and welcoming environment as we plan within public health guidelines. We look forward to doing our part to bring Greater Rochester together for a world-class event.”

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