Since its humble beginnings in 1991 the Iowa City Jazz Festival has transformed into a nationally recognized event with an average annual audience of more than 50,000. Over the years, the festival has featured some of the biggest names in jazz, including
- John Scofield - Paquito D’Rivera - Joe Lovano
- Kenny Garrett - Roy Haynes - Dave Douglas
- Bill Frisell - Joey de Francesco - Charlie Hunter
- Greg Osby - Cubanismo - Pat Martino
- Paul Motian - Don Byron - Andrew Hill
- Carla Bley - Steve Swallow - Yellowjackets
- Soulive - Patricia Barber - Sexmob
- Stefon Harris
A key ingredient in the ongoing success of the festival is its accessibility. Admission has always been free thanks to our sponsors who underwrite all costs of producing the event, allowing it to transcend socioeconomic barriers and provide free access to families and individuals regardless of income.
The Iowa City Jazz Festival makes a profound economic and cultural impact on Iowa City each year. Historically the summer season is a somewhat dormant time of year in Iowa City. Now, however, downtown is now one of the busiest hubs of economic and cultural activity in the state. Since the first Jazz Festival in 1991, the festivals have brought over a quarter million jazz fans to Iowa City with an estimated economic impact of more than seven million dollars.
The National Public Radio program JazzSet has recognized the exemplary quality of the Iowa City Jazz Festival by recording the festival four times in the past eight years. Most recently, JazzSet featured Iowa City Jazz Festival broadcasts for three consecutive weekly shows nationwide. The festival has been named one of the “Top 10 Festivals in the Nation” by Downbeat magazine.
From the beginning, the principal goal of the festival has been to present impressive level of musicianship. Each year the audience is treated to some of the very best jazz performers in the world. The festivals often feature cutting-edge musicians who have been cited top performers by their peers. From the Grammy-winning Neville Brothers, Poncho Sanchez, Paquito D’Rivera, Joe Lovano, and Yellowjackets, to Grammy-nominees John Scofield, Bill Frisell, Kenny Werner, Greg Osby and Brad Mehldau, the festival has brought some of the world's most influential talent to its stage.
A vital component of the festival is the focus on jazz education. Each year, the festival creates educational opportunities for students and aficionados through its Keyhole program. Young musicians from schools around the area are invited to perform at the festival and learn from such noted educators like Ron Carter, T.S. Monk, Jr., Ed Wilkerson, Kenny Werner, Paul McKee, Curtis Fuller, Geri Allen, David Berkman, and Dick Oatts in a focused and effective workshop setting. The festival has gained recognition as a supporter of local youth jazz groups by collaborating with both the Iowa City and West High jazz bands, featured openers at past festivals.
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