The inaugural Townsite Jazz Festival last spring was by all accounts a major success, according to festival director and founder Paul Cummings.
“It exceeded all of my expectations in every way,” he said. “At the end of it all I stood back and went ‘Wow.’ The venues looked better than I imagined they could and the musicians sounded better than I ever remembered hearing them, and we sold lots of tickets; we actually ended up in the black.”
Tickets are currently on sale for the 2019 event taking place April 4 to 6 at venues throughout Powell River’s historic Townsite district, and some changes are afoot as well.
“This year we decided we were just going to work on quality,” said Cummings.
Key changes include expanding on the popular Ash Avenue Amble, an afternoon event that allowed concert-goers to check out performances at several venues within walking distance of one another. An outdoor mainstage, street vendors and possibly a beer garden are in the works for this year, said Cummings.
The jazz festival is unique in the way it brings students and professionals together, not only for workshops but performances. High school and university musicians serve as opening acts for the headlining groups, giving them valuable industry experience.
Cummings said he is proud there are no fees for student participants.
“I’ve been to a lot of high school music festivals and often they’ll charge 300 or 400 bucks per group to participate,” he said. “So if you go to a festival and you take three groups, for a lot of music programs that eats up their entire budget for the year.”
One of the mandates of this festival is to have no financial barriers for young musicians, he added.
“Their participation, performances and workshops are free and they get tickets to the four big concerts,” said Cummings. “I don't know of any other festival that does that.”
101 students from Brooks Secondary School, Vancouver Island University, Gleneagle Secondary in Coquitlam and Nanaimo’s Wellington Secondary School will join a truly world-class lineup of jazz musicians, said Cummings.
“As far as professionals go, I’m excited about everybody,” he said.
Headlining acts include the Oliver Gannon Quartet; Last Call, a 17-member vocal group from Seattle; Tina Jones Quartet from the Gulf Islands; and Tanga from Vancouver. The latter promises to pack the floor with it energetic, danceable performances.
“I wouldn’t call them a salsa band, I’d call them a band that gets really deep into the music of Central and South America and the Caribbean Islands,” said Cummings.
Last year’s popular Brooks/Max Cameron Alumni Band will not be returning, however, Cummings is thrilled with its replacement.
“I’m very excited that this year we’re having a 100 voice, from grade one to grade 12, jazz choir,” he said.
Local music educators Megan Skidmore and Roy Carson have already begun rehearsing groups.
“My goal is to have kids from every school in the district represented in this choir,” he added.
Community participation is vital to the Townsite Jazz Festival’s ongoing success, said Cummings.
“We’re doing very well, “he said, “but we are always looking for volunteers.”
To get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.