The Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival was developed by the non-profit Blues to Green, led by the efforts of founder Kristin Neville, along with Evan Plotkin, President of NAI Plotkin and Director of Springfield City Mosaic, with the hope that people of many different communities could unite in Springfield, the urban center of Western Massachusetts, to share their love for music and art. It is a free festival event offering music, theater, dance, arts & crafts, educational workshops, and local culinary offerings in the heart of Springfield, MA. The Festival centers around bringing people together and enriching the community through a celebration of jazz and roots music, featuring both rising-stars and legends of American music.
The Festival celebrates music, but also its host, the City of Springfield. By presenting the Festival in the heart of downtown, Blues to Green seeks to bolster a positive image of Springfield, engage artists and a diverse community in fueling its revitalization, and emphasize its place as a cultural hub and driver of cultural excellence in the region.
The Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival is produced by Blues to Green whose goal is to harness the power of art and music (particularly jazz and blues) to celebrate community and culture, build shared purpose, and catalyze both social and environmental change.
A leader in Cultural Capital. Since 2014, the Festival has been at the forefront of an active revitalization movement in the city of Springfield, witnessing the startup of many new festivals, arts activities and new businesses!
Our 2017 Festival
2017 was a year of exciting change for the Jazz Fest! We hosted a special kickoff event on Friday night called Jazz and Justice. The evening began with a curtain-raiser by local youth troupe First Generation and was followed by an engaging multi-generational conversation with Springfield native Sarah Elizabeth Charles, trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, jazz icon Charles Neville. Sarah and Christian performed immediately following the conversation.
On Saturday August 12, the Festival began with a very special Second Line Parade, led by members of our New Orleans Brass Band Camp. The Brass Band Camp was a collaboration with the Community Music School of Springfield. In the weeks leading up to the Festival, Charles Neville, local artists and CMSS faculty trained local young musicians in the traditions of New Orleans Brass Bands. Then they led the Second Line Parade to open up the Festival!
We added a Second Stage this year, showcasing local and regional talent including Salsa Train Orchestra, Henri Smith and Flavours of New Orleans, the sounds of Mitch Chakour, bomba y plena dance with Bomba de Aqui, and more!
Jazz and Hoops! We celebrated the history of Springfield as the birthplace of basketball by offering clinics and basketball activities with Springfield native and NBA star Travis Best and UCONN alumna and Olympic gold medalist Kara Wolters.
Urban Roots Initiative: We stayed true to our mission and continue to advocate and support our mission of sustainability by offering easy accessible recycling options, a bike-taxi program, and an active partnership with local growers and food producers in our vendor areas.
We engaged our audiences one last time with a special After Party featuring a jam session with local artists including Mitch Chakour, playing along side festival artist Miles Mosley!
And last but not least, our stellar lineup of Main Stage performers that included:
– The Jeremy Turgeon Quintet
– Community Grooves, the Community Music School Faculty Band
– Zaccai Curtis & Insight featuring Natalie Fernandez
– Sarah Elizabeth Charles and SCOPE with special guest Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
– Miles Mosley and the West Coast Get Down
– Lizz Wright
– Rebirth Brass Band
We cannot forget our food and craft vendors that offer many culinary delights and quality goods from all around Springfield and western Massachusetts!
Our 2016 Festival Highlights:
On August 6th, 2016, Springfield became the place to be for world-class jazz and roots music and culture. The third annual Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival drew an audience of 8,000-10,000 people from western MA and the New England region. The legendary musician and proud Springfield native Taj Mahal, who almost single-handedly redefined the blues sound, headlined our free, unticketed event. The Main Stage opened with high school musicians from the Charles M. Greenlee Ensemble of the Community Music School of Springfield, followed by an illustrious lineup including Jose Gonzalez and Banda Criolla, Samirah Evans and Her Handsome Devils, Heshima Moja and Ofrecimiento with American Idol finalist Rayvon Owen, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Joey DeFrancesco.
The Community Stage indoors in the church just off Court Square boasted incredible local jazz and spoken word talent. Music ranged from Latin jazz that had us all dancing, to soulful R&B vocals backed by fiery guitar, to swampy and sultry jazz that took us straight to New Orleans. New this year, we added a third venue; the MassLive lobby offered: a photo exhibit celebrating local music and arts, original performances about social issues by Springfield’s First Generation youth theater group, and an interview and performance featuring Springfield’s musical roots. Just outside, two Springfield artists gave attendees the exhilarating opportunity to help create a mural to be displayed in a Court Square storefront.
Festivalgoers feasted on wide ranging cuisine from local food and drink vendors, shopped at local artisans’ and area businesses’ booths, and learned about nonprofits serving the city. Festivalgoers also enjoyed Springfield youth dance performances between the Main Stage acts, listened to jazz poetry and jazz children’s book readings by Springfield’s Poet Laureate, improvised with unusual electronic instruments and listened to recordings of their music, and participated in various creative activities. Plus, many attended workshops by music aficionados at the Community Music School of Springfield in the days before the festival and on event day; featuring Billy Arnold on the essence of the drums, Javon Jackson on jazz improvisation, Samirah Evans on singing, and Terri Lynne Carrington on building a musical career.
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