Goshen News, Goshen, IN

June 22, 2013

Jazzing up the summertime


GOSHEN — Now we’re in the swing of things.

Back in the swing is actually more accurate. This is, after all, the 26th year for an event that’s a boon not only for the “City with a Heart,” but for the Michiana region as a whole.

Today is the second in a three-day run for the Elkhart Jazz Festival. The event officially kicked off late Friday afternoon, though Davina and the Vagabonds offered a preview Thursday night during a sponsor reception along the river.

This year’s showcase boasts more than 80 artists playing more than 100 hours of music at six downtown Elkhart venues. The musicians are known to jazz aficionados, with one name in particular having broader recognition. That’s Wynton Marsalis, booked to play tonight at The Lerner Theatre.

The festival is remarkable for its artist roster. Perhaps even more noteworthy is its longevity. Event co-chairman David Smith points out that at 26 years, Elkhart’s musical showcase has lasted 22 years longer than the standard jazz festival.

That’s not due to luck or happenstance. The Elkhart Jazz Festival owes its continued success to local sponsors who appreciate the value of the arts in their community. It’s lasted thanks to organizers and volunteers whose efforts are vital, though largely unheralded.

Consider, too, that the festival might have folded years ago were it not for an audience with fine musical taste and discerning ears. That’s us, Michiana.

What makes a successful community? Certainly business retention and recruitment are key, as well as a healthy tax base and solid infrastructure.

Arts, entertainment and cultural offerings tend to be viewed as less essential. We think that’s short-sighted. These elements add spirit and vibrancy to a community — they complete the picture. Ask anyone within earshot of any of the masterful performers in downtown Elkhart today.

Happy 26th anniversary, Jazz Festival. You’re music to our ears.