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DC JazzFest: A Feast of Amazing ProportionsAnnual Musical Event Offers Something for Everyone

The DC JazzFest returns to multiple venues in the District beginning Friday, June 10 and continuing through Sunday, June 19 with artists that include the son of the legendary John Coltrane, award-winning performance groups from Howard University and jazz masters like Cyrus Chestnut, Eddie Palmeri, saxophonist Kamasi Washington and many more.

As Erik Moses, senior vice president and managing director of Events DC, Sports and Entertainment, says in regards to this year’s lineup, “This has become an event that residents and visitors from around the world circle on their calendar each year,” adding that the festival will feature “the most eclectic group of top performers to date.”

Besides returning to the Kennedy Center for a stellar evening that will salute Howard University’s renowned program and its founders, Fred Irby III and Dr. Art Dawkins, three days of spectacular performances will take place on the Capitol Riverfront as part of the “DC JazzFest at The Yards.”

In fact, there’ll be a diverse assortment of both emerging and master-level talent with over 90 bands and 300 artists at more than 60 venues from National Parks and The Hamilton Live to local clubs and restaurants.

The festival’s executive director, Sunny Sumter, a Howard University graduate who minored in jazz voice and has been featured on stages around the world, said it’s exciting to see so many people come from cities like Baltimore, New York City, Richmond and a host of others to enjoy the festival.

“We have a growing number of women now attending and of course, we are seeing millennials — younger adults who are coming in droves because it’s a really cool event,” she said. “And with some of our artists being young themselves, like Talib Kweli and E.J. Strickland who offer a different style of jazz with an infusion of hip-hop, we’re seeing a different kind of audience. It’s really exciting,” said Sumter who grew up in Southeast and now lives in Kensington, Maryland, with her two children, 14 and 9 years old.

Sumter said forging partnerships with organizations like Destination DC and Events DC has been instrumental in getting the word out about the festival.

“It’s a jazz takeover right here in the nation’s capital and we’ve undertaken a rigorous media campaign locally and nationally to bring folks to D.C.,” she said. “For me, it’s the freedom of the music itself — the active improvisation employed by the artists that is particularly moving. That’s what turns me on about jazz. I can’t wait for the festival to begin.”

Willard Jenkins, the festival’s artistic director since January 2015, agrees that because of a growing list of sponsors and venue partners, meeting the goal of making the celebration a citywide experience has been fairly easy to achieve.”

“Our biggest challenge is getting audiences to come out and enjoy the wealth of exceptional musicians and to introduce new people to the music — but we relish the opportunity,” said Willard, 67, a Pittsburgh native who grew up in Cleveland and brings an impressive list of achievements and knowledge as it relates to the history and world of jazz.

“Jazz is alive and well, primarily because there continue to be phenomenal musicians emerging from the Academy and the schools who are making great music. Some are taking new, innovative approaches to the genre. We continue to work on developing and exposing the audience. Believe me, there will literally be something for everyone at a convenient time in a convenient location,” he said.

For more information including tickets and schedules, go to www. dcjazzfest.org.

For more information including tickets and schedules, go to www. dcjazzfest.org.

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