Over the weekend of June 22-24, 2018, I attended the 31st Annual Elkhart Jazz Festival in Elkhart, Indiana. This festival is well-attended, with about 20,000 music lovers enjoying the performances. (You can read my longer review of the 2017 festival here).
I put this festival near the top of my “must-attend” jazz festivals. Here are just a few of the reasons:
The impressive line-up of musicians. Of course, you go to a music festival primarily to enjoy the music, and at Elkhart you can choose from instrumental groups, Big Bands, gypsy jazz, vocalists, trios, quartets, soloists, and more! There are seven venues and over 100 performances to choose from over the festival weekend. It’s impossible to hear every musical group, but I try to hear both familiar and new-to-me musicians. Headliners perform each night in the historic Lerner Theater, and over the past seasons have included the Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans, Lee Ritenour, the US Air Force Shades of Blue Jazz Band, and the Ramsey Lewis Quintet.
Low cost. Hotel and food prices are relatively cheap in this Midwest city. The festival provides a free shuttle service looping from the hotels to the festival so there’s no need to spring for Uber or taxi rides or to search for parking. There are two outside venues free and open to the public on Main Street, so if your budget is really strapped you could just enjoy the non-stop excellent shows outside. Here’s one of the outdoor concerts featuring a festival favorite, the Dave Bennett Quartet:
Support for young and new musicians. Students interested in jazz may attend the festival workshop and later play at the festival. Many high school jazz bands from around the area perform as well, and I listened to a couple of them and was impressed by their ability. The festival itself features many young and up-coming musicians. The community, as well as local businesses such as Conn-Selmer and other business sponsors, give a lot of support to the festival and its educational programs.
Fireworks! Catch the impressive fireworks show both Friday and Saturday evenings around 10 p.m.
What are you waiting for? Plan to save a weekend in June to attend next year’s concert (dates to be announced)!
Cover photo shows the Faux Frenchmen, a great gypsy jazz group from Cincinnati, Ohio.
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