Music Festival needs to be more accommodating to Jazz Aspen |

Music Festival needs to be more accommodating to Jazz Aspen

Something doesn’t feel quite right about the Aspen Music Festival’s opposition to Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ June Festival occurring in Rio Grande Park. We feel the Music Festival, and the rest of the upper valley community, should support Jazz Aspen during this time when it has been temporarily ousted from its traditional home.

Of all the people and institutions who could come out against an early summer musical event in downtown Aspen, the Music Festival is the last group from which we would have expected to hear complaints.

Admittedly, Rio Grande Park may not be the best place to stage performances expected to attract some 3,000 spectators. Aspen Theatre in the Park will be forced to rearrange its schedule, and there is a slim possibility of traffic congestion.

The timing also leaves something to be desired. The JAS June Festival will coincide with the Music Festival’s opening weekend, which on the face of it would seem to present a conflict.

However, Jazz Aspen has gone a long way to reduce any potential overlap with events at the Music Tent across town. Tony Bennett will take the Jazz Aspen stage after the Aspen Chamber Symphony has completed its performance at the tent on June 20. Two nights later, Joe Cocker will begin his Jazz Aspen set after the Aspen Festival Orchestra has left the stage.

Sure, having both events occurring on the same days could complicate life in Aspen for four days, but it can easily be argued that Aspen could use a little more activity during June. Opening weekend is hardly the Music Festival’s busiest.

We don’t believe Jazz Aspen will steal many customers from the Music Festival, which has a loyal, longstanding and well-deserved classical music following. In fact, there may actually be crossover fans who will end up buying tickets for both events.

We think it’s worth giving this uneasy marriage a try, rather than closing the door to Jazz Aspen in future years, as Don Roth, president and CEO of the Music Festival, has requested.

That said, we see Jazz Aspen Snowmass as a Snowmass Village event. With the exception of last year, when the golf course was under construction, the Jazz festival has made a grand addition to the summer scene in Snowmass for more than a decade.

The Labor Day festival is already slated to return to Snowmass, and JAS Executive Producer Jim Horowitz reportedly plans to reopen discussions with Snowmass Village about the 2004 season as well.

We think it’s unlikely that JAS will end up back in Aspen. But to draw a line in the sand and prohibit its return would be like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer.

This June’s scenario isn’t perfect. But we believe a Jazz festival in Aspen proper is much, much better than no Jazz festival at all. The festival continues to draw fabulous talent to the valley twice a year, and it’s a mistake to hamper that success over four days of potential conflict with the nine-week Music Festival.

If ever there’s a need for JAS to pitch its tent in the city of Aspen again, we should consider it – and perhaps plan it a little more carefully.

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