Disclaimer: After Intensive Efforts to Deliver a Festival this Year, the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival Must Be Postponed to June 17-25, 2022 Due to Pandemic Restrictions. For more updates please visit rochesterjazz.com.

Jazz: a genre well known for the creative freedoms, improvisation and power to express oneself through their passion and love for the dynamic art form. However, the power of jazz doesn’t live exclusively on the stage.

As a matter of fact, famous jazz musician George Gershwin once said, “Life is a lot like jazz ... it’s best when you improvise.”

This is exactly what Marc Iacona, co-producer and executive director of the Rochester International Jazz Festival, had to do when planning the nationally recognized event around this year’s unfortunate “COVID-19 Catastrophe.”

A-Chord-ing to COVID-19

For the past 18 years, the Rochester International Jazz Festival has called Rochester home, showcasing artists on various outdoor stages, leading to jam-packed streets. This year, however, cramming the jams in downtown Rochester was not an option, but neither was canceling the festival. While the festival still needs final approval from New York State, Marc Iacona and the festival board started planning a potential solution months in advance.

“If we are able to gather, the only way for us to be able to do it successfully is to go where people can gather without any real restriction,” Iacona said.

After talking to and gauging interest from various companies and businesses, Iacona and co-producer, John Nugent, ultimately decided RIT was the best choice. With the open campus, attendees would be able to spread out and feel safe, while still experiencing the heart and culture of the festival. 

The Rhythmic Result

As an RIT alum, Iacona was thrilled to present the idea to President Munson and Vice-President Watters who received the idea extremely well.

“They understood what [the event] meant to the community,” Iacona said. “They have a vision, and the culture they could be bringing to enhance the experience for students and the community around us could be phenomenal.”

"The culture they could be bringing to enhance the experience for students and the community around us could be phenomenal."

While not planning on abandoning Rochester, collaborating with RIT is an opportunity that Iacona believes will bloom into something that could be a catalyst for development of the festival in the future.

Local Business Blues

While there was a lot of positive feedback received from this decision, there were many concerns expressed by the community. Many businesses and vendors who benefit substantially from the nine-day festival took the decision quite personally. With change comes adversity, but this didn’t make Iacona any less confident in his decision.

“We on the festival team have to listen to those opinions [but] at the end of the day we’re the ones taking those risks,” Iacona stated. “We never asked them to invest in the festival, only for their support.”

While local support is important, the fact that the festival might be held in the first place is an accomplishment in itself and the community should have an open mind when considering the current circumstances.

Uncertainty is still in the air, but so is the love and passion for this festival; the spiRIT of jazz will live on regardless of what happens. To get updates on the festival, you can visit their website, Rochester International Jazz Festival.