by CRAIG COLEY
B’Town Jazz has been bringing jazz to Bloomington since 1999, when trumpeter Pat Harbison; his wife, Kristin; and pianist Monika Herzig formed the nonprofit organization that was then called Jazz from Bloomington. The group enlisted prominent musicians from around the country to perform concerts for the community and to teach workshops for Indiana University jazz students.
Over the years, the organization’s focus shifted; it now offers scholarships and programs for middle school and high school students. A series of weekly jam sessions in February and March provides opportunities for anyone to jump on stage and perform under the guidance of professionals such as Herzig. These jam sessions culminate in a public concert called The Future of Jazz.
But the group’s largest event is the annual B’Town Jazz Fest. This year, the free music festival will be held at the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center August 31.
From noon to 11 p.m., local and out-of-town musicians, as well as faculty from the IU Jacobs School of Music, will perform a variety of jazz styles in combos ranging from trios to big bands.
“The entire regional jazz community comes together to present a great all-day music event showcasing Bloomington’s finest professional and student jazz groups,” says Harbison, a music professor at IU. “There is something for every musical taste, and it’s just so much fun.”
A new group takes the stage every hour. Fittingly, even the lineups at Jazz Fest are open to improvisation.
“Many of the jazz musicians are friends and colleagues,” says John Porter, president of the group’s board of directors. “So they’re always making guest appearances with various groups.”
Fred Parker, past president of B’Town Jazz, got involved because he saw the impact it was having on his sons Chris, 22, and Jeffrey, 18. Both are pursuing music careers, and Parker credits the guidance they received through B’Town Jazz.
“It’s a fantastic organization,” Parker says. “Look at what it does for the kids in high school and the jam sessions and the future of jazz concerts.”
To learn more, visit btownjazz.org.