ELKHART — The beat goes on for the Elkhart Jazz Festival, which wrapped up its 27th year this past weekend setting a record for ticket sales for the three-day music celebration, featuring more than two dozen acts and three world class headliners.
Kurt Janowsky, who served as a festival co-chairman with David Smith and Ben Decker, estimated the jazz festival sold $160,000 in tickets and had more than 15,000 patrons throughout the weekend.
Ticket sales were strong for headliners Preservation Hall Jazz Band on Friday, June 20, and singer Aaron Neville on Saturday, June 21, nearly selling out the 1,700-seat Lerner Theatre.
“Aaron Neville is a legend, and he’s really a vocal genius, and Preservation Hall was a great way to kick off the festival,” Janowsky said. “That was wildly popular, ovations were long and people really enjoyed that.”
BY THE NUMBERS
2014 ELKHART JAZZ FESTIVAL
- 3 headliners
- 6 stages
- 6 high school jazz bands
- 25 acts
- 110 musicians
- 150+ classic cars in Sunday car show
- 200 volunteers
- 1,700 seats in the Lerner Theatre
- $160,000 total ticket sales
Contemporary jazz supergroup Fourplay headlined the Lerner on Sunday, June 22. Smith noted that the festival sold four times as many Sunday passes than in past years.
“I certainly think Sunday’s attendance was helped by the fact that there was such fantastic talent and it was such a bargain,” Janowsky said. “You could buy a Sunday pass for $35 and see everything, and that’s a steal. You could see almost eight hours of jazz continuously for $35 with a nationally headlining act included.”
Stephanie Patka, who volunteered at the Pillars of Elkhart beer tent, was elated with the festival’s turnout.
“The jazz festival is a celebration of everything Elkhart – entrepreneurism, family, community,” she said. “That’s why the jazz festival is so special, and it’s a gorgeous way to kick off the summer, kind of like a family reunion for all of Elkhart.”
Planning for the 2015 Elkhart Jazz Festival has already started, Janowsky said. The team of organizers is meeting soon to discuss this year’s event and review the talent. He said they learned a few lessons along the way because of a few behind-the-scenes hiccups.
Rainy weather caused a few problems. Organizers were forced to cancel a Mardi Gras parade that was supposed to open the festival Friday afternoon, and the airplane flying the members of Fourplay was unable to land at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The plane was unexpectedly redirected to South Bend Airport.
“The flight crew was courteous and understood they had a concert to do, so they let them off the plane,” Janowsky said. “However, they wouldn’t let them get their luggage, their gear, off the plane. Their gear flew back to O’Hare, and they called us and said they didn’t have instruments – no guitars, no drums, nothing.”
The jazz festival’s production volunteers scrambled to borrow instruments jazz festival musicians.
“The show went on about 45 minutes late, but they were really thankful,” Janowsky said about the members of Fourplay.
Neville, Saturday night’s headliner, discovered during sound check that his band didn’t have the keyboard he wanted to use, so the jazz festival’s volunteers made arrangements to get a new instrument delivered from Chicago. The keyboard arrived on stage 10 minutes before Neville was scheduled to perform, Janowsky said.
“That was a miracle,” Janowsky said.
The tour bus carrying the Airmen of Note, the U.S. Air Force Band, broke down on the Indiana Toll Road just a few hours before the ensemble was supposed to take the stage at Civic Plaza. But shortly after playing an hourlong set in the Lerner’s Crystal Ballroom, clarinetist Dave Bennett, a 2014 jazz festival honoree, stepped up and filled in for the band with a surprise performance for free on Main Street.
“The Airmen of Note arrived, and we moved their show to the Lerner Theatre where they played to nearly a full house,” Janowsky said.
Despite unexpected obstacles, the festival turned out to be a success, Janowsky said.
“We’re really proud of the volunteers and proud of Elkhart,” he said. “Musicians comment all the time about how much they enjoy performing in Elkhart and the hospitality they receive.”