Hyde Park Jazz Festival marks 15 years of acclaimed performances and local pride
Building on the popularity of small jazz performances in Hyde Park and the rich jazz heritage of the South Side, representatives of the community’s cultural institutions 15 years ago came up with a simple idea that they believed could serve several laudable goals. The concept: organize a neighborhood jazz festival.
It worked, and continues to do, for reasons based on the unique construction of the festival, strong support from the University of Chicago, and a large network of volunteers.
“The university was absolutely fundamental to doing this,” recalled Judith Stein, longtime resident of Hyde Park, AB’1962, AM’1964, who became co-founder of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival and sits on its board of directors. ‘administration. “Without that, it couldn’t have happened.”
The 15th annual festival, scheduled for September 25-26, will be presented almost entirely on outdoor venues and is expected to reflect the growing popularity of the event. Attendance for each of the past few years – with the exception of a 2020 version scaled down to accommodate COVID-19 security measures – has attracted 15,000 to 20,000 people. Between 2000 and 5000 attended the inaugural festival in 2007.
This year’s slightly condensed format will feature 30 concerts performed at six different venues across Hyde Park. Festival attendees can see Regina Carter, Junius Paul and Tomeka Reid, for example, on the Midway Plaisance, and Thaddeus Tukes with Ashley Jackson in the courtyard of the Smart Museum. The Mai Sugimoto Trio will perform in the parking lot of the Augustana Church and the Jeremiah Collier Quartet will perform on the North Terrace of the DuSable Museum. Two performances – Makaya McCraven and Ensemble Dal Niente & Ken Vandermark – are inside, at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts.
It’s all free.
Access to diverse cultural riches
The free entry and venues underscore a goal the organizers had in mind when designing the festival years ago. The group wanted to open institutions to local residents and others outside the region who may not be aware, unable or unwilling to explore the abundant artistic offerings of these institutions. The hope was that the participants would get to know Hyde Park better.
This goal was one of the reasons why UChicago enthusiastically supported the event.
“The festival resonated with our mission of engagement in several ways,” said Derek Douglas, UCicago vice president for civic engagement and external affairs. He noted that in addition to the significant financial support that was vital in the early years of the festival, the University of Chicago provided marketing and related services, and offered several campus venues.
“The fact that it was free was something the university was clamoring for because it opens up access to everyone, which helps us build a bridge with community members,” Douglas added. “And the use of all of these wonderful places – museums, performance venues, arts centers – at the university and throughout the community, invites locals and around the world to explore the diverse cultural riches of Hyde Park.”