Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Week
The sixteen months have been difficult for performing arts organizations across the country as they have suffered canceled concerts and events in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. But as conditions slowly return to normal, theaters reopen and audiences return to listen to live music. Starting Saturday, July 10, 2021, the Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Society is presenting a week-long celebration of jazz and blues with a variety of paid and free events taking place daily in the city.
Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Society executive director Alex Gilbert-Schrag says she came up with the idea for Jazz & Blues Week in March. “Normally, if you are planning something of this magnitude, I would say start much earlier than that,” Gilbert-Schrag explains. “But given the status of our last year and a half, it was really hard to plan for tomorrow. So when things started to look like we were a little bit close to normal at this point, I thought to myself that we have to try something and make it as low risk as possible; focus on the community and use local musicians as much as possible and see what happens.
The week-long celebration begins on Saturday afternoon with a return to the annual Jazz Crawl, which typically takes place in April during Jazz Appreciation Month. It’s a fun time to hear a variety of local bands perform in venues all around Sioux Falls. Gilbert-Schrag describes the annual Jazz Crawl as a gateway for people who have never listened to jazz before. “It’s without obligation. You can go to your favorite bar, listen to some jazz and maybe start to enjoy it and start looking for other opportunities to come and listen to performances.
To encourage people to “crawl” from place to place and not stay in one place, Gilbert-Schrag says there is a scavenger hunt. If you take selfies at four or more of the venues during Jazz Crawl and post them on Instagram using the hashtag # jazzcrawl2021, you’re entered to win gift cards, giveaways, concert tickets and more.
Jazz & Blues Week continues with a concert on Sunday July 11 by blues guitarist / singer Tab Benoit at the District. Over the next few days there are performances by the Brian Hanegan Quintet, Hegg Brothers Band, Ken Hoyne’s Little Big Band, Phil Baker and young musicians attending this summer’s Jazz Camp. The event will conclude on Sunday July 18 with an evening of jazz, wine and food at the R Wine Bar with music from the Latin Quarter.
For many musicians, Jazz & Blues Week is an opportunity to go out and perform again in front of a live audience. “Some of the bands that perform haven’t played together for a very long time,” says Gilbert-Schrag. “I know a lot of them haven’t played in bigger venues in a while, so it’s really exciting to be able to get some of these bands together for this week.”
It is also an opportunity for the Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Society to resume presenting live shows. Gilbert-Schrag became the organization’s executive director in January 2020, shortly before the pandemic shut down everything. “Everything changed in the blink of an eye,” she recalls. “In one day we went from thinking we were planning all these big events for the year to canceling and postponing events and it all went into chaos.”
Gilbert-Schrag says the Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Society went into survival mode during the pandemic and reflected on what the organization should be. “We’ve really looked at our core values and what we’re going to prioritize,” she says. “We made survival a priority and did everything we could to make sure we were going to get out of it and be able to get things done.”
Jazz & Blues Week is just one of those things. Gilbert-Schrag hopes that while you may not be able to attend all of the week’s events, you will attend at least one and get a taste of what jazz and blues are all about. “It may surprise you,” she says.
For a full list of events and shows during Jazz & Blues Week, visit the Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Society website: sfjb.org.