The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Fest has become a local treasure. I have lived in the midst of the festival for 14 years, only a block from the Big Tent. I have had a privileged seat from which to watch its development.
I schedule an entire week around the nine day festival. It’s hard to avoid with road closures and the palpable excitement that begins to build a week prior to the event. During morning coffee at Java’s, I rub shoulders with the festival’s organizers, musicians and volunteers.
There are several critical ingredients for its success, making it a unique and internationally recognized event.
First, Rochester is fertile soil. Growing up in a musical household and being a world traveler, I recognize the unusual concentration of musical talent and knowledge present in our city. The Jazz Fest occurs within the boundaries of one of the greatest music conservatories in the world, especially recognized for its jazz program.
The event itself capitalizes on the density of superior performance venues within a neighborhood – a legacy of downtown Rochester’s prosperity. An emerging residential and entertainment district lies at its core.
Most importantly, we have two talented entrepreneurs who operate it like a business. They have experimented and taken risk to create something new that both serves the community, delivers joy and makes money. To me, that’s the American way. I’ve rarely seen two entrepreneurs work harder, while exuding such joy.
Finally it’s important to recognize the role of the government in contributing to its success. Kudos to the city and county for their support – financial and otherwise – since the festival’s inception. Government is not equipped to create or build this type of community gem for many reasons. Its role is to recognize promising private initiatives, and aid and abet them as they demonstrate their positive impact on the community.
Jazz Fest’s evolution has tracked the stunning resurgence of the city. Rochester was internationally recognized as being a center for innovation and progressive practices for nearly two centuries. After stumbling a bit, we are regaining our luster and vibrancy. The future is bright. Great things lie ahead for Jazz Fest and Rochester. Stay tuned.
Richard Glaser is co-creator of RocGrowth and RocGrowth Candids and Coffee events. He was presented with Upstate Venture Connect’s Community Catalyst award for organizing programs that bring together diverse startup ecosystem players.