Dixieland Jazz Festival Entertains Olympia

jazz festival
The Greater Olympia Jazz Festival will be held June 27 - 30 at Saint Martin's University.


By Amy Rowley

jazz festival
The Greater Olympia Jazz Festival will be held June 27 – 30 at Saint Martin’s University.

The first request when my daughters hop in the car is to turn on some music.  My kids DJ music from the car’s back seat.  They dance wherever they can, belting out their version of the lyrics.  Elaborate routines are choreographed in the front room, waiting for dinner to land on the table.  Their musical tastes vary from Beach Boys to new age instrumental.  They are as likely to bust a move to Madonna as they are to ABBA.

This weekend, these two young girls will have the opportunity to show off their dance moves during the Greater Olympia Dixieland Jazz Festival.  In four venues, Olympia families can listen and dance to a wide variety of jazz music.

According to event organizer, Walt Bowen, people from over 20 states across America will be playing, dancing, and listening to jazz music from professional musicians.  But, Thurston Country residents only need to go as far as Saint Martin’s University to experience this talented line-up.

“You have the chance to see some very experienced, professional musicians right here in Olympia,” remarks Bowen.

The non-profit jazz society uses the festival to raise scholarship money for local musicians.

olympia jazz festival
Buck Creek is a favorite of festival goers that is returning to this year’s jazz festival in Olympia.

The jazz festival fills four venues at Saint Martin’s University, serving up 99 hours of music over the course of four days.  Park at one location to reach all four venues.

Inside the Marcus Pavilion at Saint Martin’s University, two dance floors will be set up to accommodate a large number of people.  The Worthington Center will also host musicians throughout the weekend, accommodating smaller groups.  A tent, at the Student Union building, will hold about 100 people.  Bowen explains that this more intimate setting is an opportunity to get closer to the bands as a listener.

“We want kids to have fun.  If your children feel like they want to dance on the floor, in the hallway, wherever then get up and dance,” exclaims Bowen.

The jazz music spans the spectrum, a feature that Bowen says separates the Olympia festival from others in the area.  “You can hear serious jazz from the 20’s and 30’s to modern jazz trios,” he says.  Depending on your musical taste, you can pick your favorite style or be exposed to a new type of jazz.

Bowen adds that many of the performers have a national following which increases the attendance since people will travel to Olympia to see their favorite group play live.

olympia jazz festival
The family friendly event exposes kids to a wide variety of jazz music. Dance in the aisles, hallways or on two dance floors.

For example, the Apostles of Sax will be on stage in the Pavilion on Saturday at 4:15 pm.  The trio of bass sax players only joins together once per year, as part of the jazz festival.  Bowen recommends staying for the jazz clarinet performance.

Musical groups such as Grand Dominion also reach out to the community.  Grab an early seat to watch Tom Rigney and Grand Dominion perform at the Olympia Farmers Market on Friday during lunch time.

Jazz musicians will also be playing during church services on Sunday.  “There is a rich history of jazz being a part of gospel music,” says Bowen.  “It may be the only place in town that you can listen to religious music and dance.”  In addition, to gospel jazz music at the festival, United Churches in downtown Olympia will host Grand Dominion at 10:00 am on Sunday.

As the event organizer, Bowen laments that he doesn’t get to listen to many of the acts.  Instead, he’s busy handling logistics for the four-venue party.  Last year, he took a break up in the bleachers while Tom Rigney performed.

“During a Tennessee waltz, I gazed down at more than 400 couples from across the US.  The room was perfectly quiet, except for the sounds of jazz band.  They were all spinning around, dancing on the same foot.  It was my equipment on the stage, my lights that illuminated the dance floor and to see all these people enjoying the event was truly priceless,” reflects Bowen.

jazz festivalFor a complete festival schedule, click here.  Tickets range from $15 – $50.

Greater Olympia Dixieland Jazz Festival

Saint Martin’s University

Thursday, June 27 – Sunday, June 30


Music performance hours:

Thursday – 7:00 pm – 10:30 pm

Friday – 12:00 pm – 10:30 pm

Saturday – 10:00 am – 11:30 pm

Sunday – 9:30 am – 3:30 pm with an After Glow Party at Tugboat Annie’s until 7:15 pm



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