In 2002, John Nugent and Marc Iocona launched the Rochester International Jazz Festival as a way to celebrate this country’s only native music form.  The festival soon became a landmark event for the city of Rochester, as well as one of the largest and fastest growing music festivals in the U.S.

Kilbourn Hall - Sell-outs are not unusual at this Festival

Kilbourn Hall - Sell-outs are not unusual

For Nugent, the Co-producer and Artistic Director as well as a renowned tenor saxophonist and Iocona, Co-producer and Executive Director, President of Simcona Electronics and a celebrated trumpeter, the Rochester International Jazz Festival is a labor of love.  It’s also a way to provide a showcase for the work of emerging musicians alongside Internationally-acclaimed artists, which has been one of this event’s hallmarks.

Jazz lovers will find this festival accessible to everyone, no matter what their taste or budget.  The program offers over 200 concerts featuring more than 800 musicians in both free and ticketed venues.  The fact that all of the musical venues are within walking distance of each other in downtown Rochester adds to accessibility.

The elegant Eastman Theatre is one of the ticketed Headliner venues

The elegant Eastman Theatre is one of the ticketed Headliner venues

This year’s Headliners performing at the Eastman Theatre are a formidable group of musicians including jazz greats Smokey Robinson, Dave Brubeck Quartet, Michael McDonald, Taj Mahal and others.  Club passes are not valid for these performances and may be purchased through Ticketmaster.

Enjoy daily complimentary concerts on "Jazz Street" by top performers

Enjoy daily complimentary concerts on "Jazz Street" by top performers

On the opposite end of the spectrum, where no tickets or Club passes are required, the festival offers an exciting array of concerts that are open to the public at no charge.   For the schedule of Free Concert Venues and addresses, click on the links below:

What could be better than the Smugtown Stompers on the Mary Jemison?

Enjoy the Smugtown Stompers aboard the Mary Jemison

You’ll be amazed to find headliners Buckwheat Zydeco, Marshall Tucker Band, Tower of Power, and others performing at the above venues where there is no charge! 

In the next post, we’ll cover some of the Club pass venues.  If you haven’t already ordered your Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival Club Pass, which allows access to dozens of venues and hundreds of concerts across the city, order yours now because they sell out FAST!  The fee is $135 plus a $4 service charge.

Photos Courtesy of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival and:

  • Kilbourn Hall – Peter Parts
  • Eastman Theatre – Garry Geer
  • Jazz Street – Don Ver Ploeg
  • Smugtown Stompers – Garry Geer
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