A mosaic of jazz; Riverfront Jazz Festival offers local and national artists
By Taylor J. Hale
STEVENS POINT – The eloquent timbres of jazz will ripple through Pfiffner Pioneer Park and downtown Stevens Point this Labor Day Weekend at the Riverfront Jazz Festival.
The festival started in 2004 and continues to bring in some of the biggest names in the modern jazz scene since.
This year’s featured artist is Grammy Award winner Brian Lynch, known for his rhythmic Latin jazz style.
“Sometimes, the really old and established guys’ performances are more conversation than playing,” explained Dave Bakken, president of the festival’s committee. “They will go into a story about their time with Muddy Waters, then play a song, then tell a story again. It’s pretty cool when they can come.”
The vibrant event began when Lee Ayers, of Lee Ayers Jewelers, and other community members sought to bring the jazz culture to Stevens Point. He reached out to the Central Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra (CWSO) about organizing a free event, and work started on the 2004 festival.
“[The CWSO] said yes, so we held our first festival,” Bakken said.
While the event may bring in world-renowned acts each year, they also support local artists. The committee works with UW-Stevens Point (UWSP) to coordinate performances, including live sets from students and recent graduates.
“Each year our artist lineup includes local, regional, and international acts,” said Matt Buchman, the event’s artistic director and UWSP director of jazz studies.
“By presenting local talent alongside Grammy-winning artists like Brian Lynch, our audience can more deeply appreciate the talent level of our local artists.”
The Faith Hatch Quartet will be playing on Sept. 1 at the event. Hatch is a recent UWSP graduate with a budding career in the music industry.
The festival also helps support the university’s jazz program with a yearly donation. “Proceeds from the event help support the UWSP jazz studies program, primarily by providing scholarship money,” Buchman added. Last year the festival was able to raise $5,000 for the college and drew in roughly 4,600 visitors.
Bakken hopes to see similar figures this year, if the weather holds out.
The Riverfront Jazz Festival offers Portage County residents a mosaic of some of the most skilled jazz musicians in the industry, according to event organizers. Guests can experience a finely-curated selection of music and food during the weekend-long gathering of culture, arts and jazz — all free of charge. Food vendors and non-alcoholic drinks are available for purchase at the event.
The Riverfront Jazz Festival will be held at Pfiffner Pioneer Park, 1100 Crosby Ave., Stevens Point, Aug. 31 – Sept. 1, 3-8:30 p.m.
For more information, visit http://www.riverfrontjazzfestival.org.