The very first jazz record was produced 100 years ago. In February 1917, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s album sold a million copies and influenced culture from that day forward.
Locally we are blessed to celebrate all things jazz at the 27th annual America’s Classic Jazz Festival, held this year on June 22 through 25 at Saint Martin’s University. This coincides with the kick-off of the City of Lacey’s 50th Anniversary, with events running July through December.
The Jazz Festival is a party full of live music, soulful dance, New Orleans-esque parasol parades and a massive After Glow party and jam session. Long-time organizer Walt Bowen loves that “Jazz fans from 37 states including Alaska and Hawaii, two Canadian Providences, and England are attracted to this festival as it is known for its great line-up of bands and location.”
Thursday, June 22 is the kick-off party from 7:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. in SMU’s Marcus Pavilion and Worthington Center. Swing dancing—don’t worry, there are lots of free lessons for the newbies—and music will warm things up, including Jeff Barnhart Charlotte’s Boys, High Sierra, CanUS, Grand Dominion, and first-time attendees Joe Smith’s Spicy Pickles.
After a late night on the dance floor, music resumes Friday at 10:45 a.m. and runs until almost 11:00 p.m. There will be bands playing in Marcus Pavilion, the Worthington Center, SMU’s Student Union building and a large outdoor tent on the school’s welcoming, walkable grounds. Need to stretch your legs a little more? Enjoy Tom Rigney and Flambeau or High Sierra at the Olympia Farmer’s Market show stage from 11:00 a.m. until 1:45 p.m.
Don’t say up too late since Saturday’s fun starts at 9:30 a.m. on the same four campus-wide stages. Bands play into the night and include musicians from across the U.S. and Canada.
Sunday morning it’s time for a gospel celebration. Portland, Oregon’s Black Swan and Marilyn Keller offer up a free session at Saint Martin’s and west coast favorite Grand Dominion plays at United Churches of Olympia downtown. The SMU gospel performance begins at 9:30 a.m. and downtown’s United Churches performance is at 10:00 a.m.
The weekend winds down at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, but doesn’t stop completely. From 5:00 to 7:15 p.m., join the musicians across town for an After Glow on the Water performance at Tugboat Annie’s.
Tickets for all four days of the Jazz Festival are $115 with day rates and student discounts available. You can purchase at the door or by calling Charlotte Dickison at 360-943-9123. Many local hotels are offering jazz rates during your stay and some even donate to the Greater Olympia Dixieland Jazz Society, the event’s organizer.
Saint Martin’s hosts limited RV parking on-site as well for $25 a day with hook-up or $20 a day without. Call Charlotte Dickison for availability and to reserve your space.
Bowen explains that the Society’s mission “is to keep jazz music alive. We do this by raising funds to sponsor scholarships for students to learn how to play and understand jazz. We sponsor monthly dances with live bands, and sponsor the America’s Classic Jazz Festival.”
Read more about participating bands and performers on the Jazz Society’s website and get your dancing shoes ready. “This event is not only about music but dancing as well,” says Bowen. “We have dance instruction and four dance floors. Kids like to get out and dance. Many people like to like to hear the historic music and others like watch. There is a historic aspect since we will be covering 100 years of music that is part of American history. It is about having fun.”
Also on the website, you can sign up to volunteer or do so by calling 360-705-3024. Want to participate as a corporate or group sponsor? Documents are available online or by calling 360-943-9123. With your help comes nation-wide exposure on the organization’s social media and event advertising.
Jazz is more than an art form, for many it’s a way of life. It mixes free-form experimentation with skill, talent and hard work. Bring family, friends and neighbors to enjoy the fruits of a century’s worth of creativity. This is one celebration where polite applause is often replaced by dancing, hoots, whistles, clapping and vibrant enjoyment for one and all.