In 2009, the founders of the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival established Berkshires Jazz, Inc. as an independent non-profit organization, whose mission is to preserve Jazz, America’s indigenous art form and nurture its growth by presenting high quality jazz programs, fostering jazz education and promoting the local jazz scene. The establishment of Berkshires Jazz, Inc. as an independent 501c3 organization was facilitated by Gene Wenner of Arts and Entertainment Consulting, and followed four years of operation with the Berkshire Music School as our fiscal agent.
Edward Bride, chairman of the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival, is President of Berkshires Jazz; other officers include Garth Story, Vice President; Marilyn Gerhard, Secretary; and Barbara Seddon, Treasurer.
In addition to the officers named above, Board members include Peter Coombs, Lou Costi, Ted DiPietro, Chris Dodig, Paul Garvey, Peter Lazes, Marsha Rose McDermott, Art Niedeck, Craig Smith, Phil Tierney, Chuck Walker and Andy Wrba.
Special advisors to the board include Jen Glockner, Director of the Office of Cultural Development for the City of Pittsfield; Board Member Emerita Tracy Wilson; musicians Claire Daly and Andy Jaffe; jazz writer, historian, and presenter Willard Jenkins; and Andy Kelly, chairman of the city’s Cultural Development Commission.
Pittsfield CityJazz Festival
The Pittsfield CityJazz Festival was formed in 2005 to present mainstream and traditional jazz in a downtown setting. Over the years, the festival presented such headline talent as:
- NEA Jazz Masters Dave Brubeck, Dr. Billy Taylor, and Phil Woods;
- up-and-coming artists such as Brandon Goldberg, Veronica Swift, and Grace Kelly (her first appearance at the age of 14);
- individual standouts such as Randy Brecker, T.S. Monk, Claire Daly, Stephanie Nakasian, Hod O’Brian, Winard Harper, Karrin Allyson, and Barbara Dennerlein.
The New England Jazz Ensemble released a live recording of their appearance at the first Pittsfield CityJazz Festival in 2005.
Dave Brubeck’s 2009 appearance was his final performance in Berkshire County.
Jazz throughout the year
In addition to the festival, Berkshires Jazz presents concerts during April (Jazz Appreciation Month) and throughout the year. Highlights have included centennial tributes to Thelonious Monk, Buddy Rich, and Billie Holiday. A wide range of performers has included NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston, when we declared him a Berkshires Jazz Living Legend, as well as groups featuring guest soloists such as Marvin Stamm, Gary Smulyan, Bill Mays, Eli Newberger, Houston Person, and Noah Baerman.
We partner with Berkshire Gateway Preservation, Inc., in presenting the annual Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend, in downtown Lee, Mass. And in Pittsfield, the Bousquet Jazz Festival presents a combination of hillside performances and “apres jazz” sets at Pittsfield’s historic ski area.
An annual highlight has been Jazz In Schools, featuring performances, demonstrations, and discussions by the Andy Kelly Jazz Ambassadors in the schools throughout Berkshire County. Over the years, literally thousands of students have experienced live jazz in the classroom and assembly halls. This local group, which has toured Pittsfield’s sister cities abroad, is headed by guitarist and teacher Andy Kelly. School principals and administrators have praised this community commitment of the festival and the positive impact it has had on students. Thanks to generous underwriters, Jazz In Schools is provided at no cost to the school system.
The festival also presents Jazz About Town, (a.k.a. “the jazz crawl”), featuring local musicians in restaurants across the city. Dozens of venues have featured all genres of instrumental and vocal jazz, all at no cover, in advance of weekend headline concerts. Restaurant owners report increased attendance and longer visits by patrons on the nights when they have participated in this aspect.
In an effort to keep prices at an accessible level, the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival has successfully partnered with several local, regional, and national organizations to underwrite various components. Starting with Legacy Banks in 2005, sponsors have included Greylock Federal Credit Union, TD Bank, North Coast Brewing Co., Time Warner Cable, MTV/Nickelodeon, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Feigenbaum Foundation, Berkshire Bank, the Pittsfield and Massachusetts Cultural Councils, and the Mill Town Foundation. Local merchants have provided thousands of dollars in in-kind services such as ReadWebCo, The Berkshire Eagle, and Wood Brothers Music.