The 23rd Annual Boscov�s Berks Jazz Fest has begun! The festival runs from Friday, April 5th through Sunday, April 14th. Although I live in Berks and have attended the event for many years, I�m amazed at how much talent and how many shows and venues are involved in this year�s festival. It seems like yesterday I wrote about Berks being a full ten years old and then in a flash Berks turned �Sweet Sixteen.� Now, at the more mature age of 23, the festival has truly come into its own. With an identity and style that is easily recognized, it can be said that Berks has learned how to make these ten days count to provide memories that jazz fans want to relive year after year.
For me, there is one sure way to know the festival is ready to begin, and that is the arrival of my good friend Peter Boehi, administrator of this site, SmoothVibes.com. Peter has now traveled to the United States from Switzerland for the ninth year to bask for ten days in the music he loves. My husband and I enjoyed dinner with Peter earlier this evening and then he was off to one of the pre-festival shows at the Reading Public Museum Neag Planetarium, featuring Brian Hughes, the guitarist. Peter has been a wonderful support to our festival. In the early days I wrote about shows and posted photos here, but as time went on, Peter has made it his priority while here to cover the shows he attends and share brilliant photos he captures of the artists.
Along with Peter, many other media friends, musician friends and friends around Berks make the festival so enjoyable for me. As I looked over the festival plans for the year, I was again struck by the enormous task it is to produce and promote a festival of this magnitude.
I counted the approximate number of people directly involved in making Berks the festival that it is. The number reflects those who work in festival management, sponsor development (title sponsor, major sponsors, promotional/media sponsors, community and hotel sponsors), festival production (house, stage, production managers and crews), technical support, as well as support for transportation, hospitality, ticketing, merchandise, website, and workshop/youth activities, plus marketing/publicity, logo design, ticketing and merchandise, photography, security. Many of these positions are filled by those who give of their time, and so volunteer coordination is a significant part of the planning. The festival always has a title sponsor, and the title sponsor again this year is Boscov�s, which may mean little to you until you learn that Boscov�s is a department store that originated in the city of Reading by Solomon Boscov. His son Albert Boscov is a household name in Reading and Berks County. He has done so much good for the city in his initiative, creativity and support of so many successful projects (too many to name here, but The Goggle Works, one of the best art communities of its kind is just one example). He recently received a most prestigious award from the state of Pennsylvania, and people came from so many places and so many walks of life to celebrate with this very humble man who is so well loved and respected. I know the people involved in the Berks Jazz Fest couldn�t be more proud than to have Boscov�s as the title sponsor. But back to the number of people directly involved, are you ready for this? The number is somewhere around 250 people/organizations to do what�s mentioned above, and that doesn�t include the list of volunteers who will provide support out front and behind the scenes in each of the venues during each concert.
To give you the scope of this festival, there have been jazz events at local restaurants and all kinds of venues (anywhere that someone can set up an instrument or a band or a stool to provide music/singing) for at least a month leading up to the official start of the Jazz Fest. There have been at least six preview shows and there is a post-Jazz Fest show. During the ten days of the festival, there are 67 listed local events and many more that are not formally advertised but occur all during this time. As for major events, there are 45 of them listed. Most of these occur on the two weekends of the festival, (weekends is a loose term during Jazz Fest as it often includes Thursday night as well as Friday through Sunday.)
Here�s a taste of the talent that is appearing this first weekend, again beginning with tonight, Thursday: Brian Hughes, Babatunde Lea, John Scofield�s Hollowbody Band, Keiko Matsui, Dianne Reeves and the Reading Symphony Orchestra, The Music of Amy Winehouse featuring Jenifer Kinder and the Amy Flies in Paradise Band, Najee with special guest Alex Bugnon, Gerald Veasley�s Sounds of Philly, featuring Phil Perry, Nick Colionne, Carol Riddick and Kindred the Family Soul, Brian Bromberg Band featuring Randy Becker and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Incognito featuring Maysa, Kurt Elling, Eric Clapton Retrospective featuring Craig Thatcher Band, Kim Waters with special guests Chante Moore and Phil Perry, Elan Trotman and Friends, Lee Ritenour with Michael Lington and Joey Sommerville, Fourplay with special guest Lalah Hathaway, and Arturo Sandoval.
It�s quite a sight to see fans scurrying in all directions, from show to show, taking in all they possibly can of all this talent gathered in one place. What also draws people to Berks is that in addition to hearing great music, you get to meet and rub shoulders with many musicians. They are generally approachable and truly appreciate their fans. It makes the whole experience of being here that much more memorable. Fans return year after year because they have found kindred spirits and friends within this entire musical community known as the Berks Jazz Fest.
Tickets are still available and we would love to have you join us for any part of these ten days in Reading, Pennsylvania!!
Stay tuned here to read about many of the shows coming up and the ones we have attended.
Beverly J. Packard
Berks Jazz Fest Jazz Circle Member