Jazz festival in Aspen strikes sour note with Music Festival, theater
Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ plan to hold its June Festival at Rio Grande Park has hit something of a sour note with other local arts organizations that fear it could become an annual occurrence.The festival, scheduled for the third weekend in June, will coincide with the opening weekend of the Aspen Music Festival and School and force Aspen Theatre in the Park to rearrange its performance schedule.”We don’t see this location as being the kind of place for this type of event,” said Don Roth, president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival. “We certainly are going to make the City Council aware of what our concerns are.””It’s an issue, definitely,” agreed Alan Osburn, artistic director for Theatre in the Park. “I know our board of directors has expressed concern that it not happen again in the future.”The board’s executive committee is expected to discuss the issue next week before taking a formal stand, Osburn said.Reconstruction of the Snowmass Village golf course forced Jazz Aspen to take both its June and Labor Day festivals on the road last year. Although the Labor Day festival is scheduled to return to Snowmass this year, the concert venue alongside the golf course still won’t be ready this June and Aspen’s Rio Grande Park has been pegged to accommodate the four-day festival.”This is something we’ve had to react to,” Roth said. “We didn’t know about Rio Grande Park until we read about it in the paper. This train was kind of rolling down the track before we knew about it.”In fact, last November’s announcement that the June Festival would be held in the park caught some members of the city’s Special Events Committee by surprise, as well, since JAS had not yet applied for a special event permit. The committee has since signed off on the park venue, but the City Council must approve a noise variance to allow the concerts to continue past 9 p.m. The music is scheduled to end at 10 p.m. and the entire venue will be enclosed in a tent.The council will hold a hearing on the request for a variance on April 14.Music Festival executives were initially worried that amplified music from Jazz Aspen would interfere with concerts in the Music Tent, less than a mile away, but JAS organizers responded by scheduling the jazz concerts around the Music Festival’s schedule, said Jim Horowitz, JAS executive producer.”It’s not true that they’ll hear Joe Cocker during their classical concerts,” he said. “We have scheduled things so that there is no overlap. We went out of our way to schedule things so as not to interfere.”On Friday, June 20, Tony Bennett will take the Jazz Aspen stage at 8:30 p.m., after the Aspen Chamber Symphony has concluded its performance at the Music Tent. The same is true for the Sunday, June 22, show featuring Cocker, Horowitz said. The English soul-rock singer won’t take the stage until the Aspen Festival Orchestra has taken its final bows.Opening acts during the jazz fest have been rescheduled as late-night shows at The Hotel Jerome and even the sound checks have been scheduled to avoid interrupting the Music Festival, Horowitz added.Roth expressed appreciation for those efforts, and for what Jazz Aspen does to enhance the resort in general. However, he admits he’s worried a successful June Festival at Rio Grande Park will lead to its continued use of that venue, especially since JAS officials haven’t assured him the festival won’t return to the park.”Even if they don’t impinge on our times, it affects our guests,” Roth said. “This will hurt us. It certainly is head-to-head competition for our tickets and we’ll bring over 2,000 people to each [event] – it will make the town less pleasant.”Everything from lodging to dinner reservations and parking spaces will be more difficult to come by with both festivals going on simultaneously in Aspen, Roth noted. Although the opening of the Music Festival and the JAS June Festival have overlapped in recent years, the crowds were easier to accommodate when the jazz fest was at Snowmass, according to Roth. Many jazz patrons chose to dine and stay in Snowmass Village.”All we’re asking for is, let’s not make this a permanent situation,” he said. “I certainly am convinced the situation in Rio Grande Park during our festival is at best a win-lose and at worst, could be a lose-lose.”What’s negative for the [Music] Festival is ultimately negative for the city,” Roth continued. “I think the city needs to consider that they’re doing something that hurts us and weakens us, and that’s not necessary.”If the June Festival returns to Aspen, Roth hopes it will be on a weekend that doesn’t conflict with the Music Festival.”If in Aspen, not during our season, please,” he said. “If during our season, in Snowmass, please.”The second weekend in June wouldn’t conflict with the Music Festival, but it’s a busy one, dominated by the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen.Jazz Aspen hasn’t made any decisions about the venue for its June Festival beyond this year, according to Horowitz. He expects JAS and Snowmass to negotiate on that topic.”We’ll see how it goes here and we’ll see how Snowmass feels about getting it back,” he said.With the Snowmass venue out of the question this June, Theatre in the Park wants to be accommodating to the jazz festival, Osburn said. The theater tent is right next door at Rio Grande Park and the theater will have to suspend activity during the concerts.”We’re not going to be able to hear anything,” Osburn said. “We would love to just shut down for that weekend, but we can’t afford to.”Instead, Theatre in the Park will begin its rehearsal/performance schedule earlier than usual. There will be associated costs with bumping up its schedule so that it can break for the June Festival, he said. Osburn has talked with Jazz Aspen about reimbursement for those costs.”We talked about a figure,” he said. “There is talk. They’re working on accommodating us in that manner.” Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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