Virtually Jazzed: ‘House Party’ to support Jazz Aspen Snowmass
Jazz Aspen hosts multi-faceted ‘house party’ on Saturday
What: Jazz Aspen Snowmass 30th Anniversary Virtual House Party
When: Saturday, March 20, 6 p.m.
How much: $50 and up
More info: jazzaspensnowmass.org
Virtual events have come a long way over the past year of pandemic living.
Through experiments, trial and error, Aspen area performers and presenters — like people around the world — have figured out ways to innovate and improve upon the experience and the connections possible through livestreams and the like.
Jazz Aspen Snowmass, the nonprofit behind the June and Labor Day Experience music festivals and the seasonal JAS Café, has found ways of its own to engage listeners this winter as public health restrictions tightened by hosting performance as well as its “Listen Up!” interview series, which also allows a limited number of people to directly engage musicians in video chats.
On March 20, Jazz Aspen will host a virtual “House Party” celebrating its 30th anniversary — which went without a major in-person party last year — with music, food and drink and an actively engaging virtual format.
“We’re making it a convivial good time,” Jazz Aspen founder Jim Horowitz said of the interactive event.
Artists in the virtual lineup include local students in Jazz Aspen education programs and Jazz Aspen favorites including Dianne Reeves, Christian McBride, Take 6, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Monty Alexander. Denver-based comedian Adam Cayton-Holland will emcee.
The event replaces the organization’s traditional March fundraiser, which in recent years has coincided with some of the season’s more high-profile JAS Café shows, a Jazz Aspen board meeting and an actual house party for local and national donors.
“It’s always fun, it’s always about having a good time and raising funds for our music education programs,” Horowitz said. “Usually, it’s a real house party at somebody’s house.”
The virtual party will offer a customizable experience where attendees can move from room to room in a virtual Aspen Street Lodge. In the kitchen will be cooking demos with Denver’s Chef Bijou Thomas and Pastry Chef Stephanie Maratia, in the wine cellar tastings with Daou Family Vineyards, at the bar mixologists from Woody Creek Distillers and in the game room there’ll be jazz trivia. (Participants who bought tickets early had options for food and booze kits to cook and taste along with the talent.)
There’s also a dance contest, inviting participants to compete for prizes (including a pair of VIP tickets to the 2021 Labor Day Experience).
Jazz Aspen had planned internally for a season of JAS Café shows this winter, in the hopes that public heath restrictions would allow them to proceed, but scrapped the unannounced lineup as COVID-19 cases spiked in the area. Among the replacement programs have been the “Listen Up!” interviews, in which Horowitz interviews Jazz Aspen regulars like Bria Skonberg, Dave Watts (of the Motet) and Jose James.
“We found that this has been a very nice way to engage people who tend to be real fans of the music,” Horowitz said. “They are the ones that are tuning in, and then sticking around and doing the artists meet-and-greets.”
The nonprofit has also kept its local music education and instruction programs going through the winter, virtually and in-person.
“We’re engaging in every single way that we can,” Horowitz said, “other than the one way that we probably want to the most, which is regularly gathering people for live performances, in intimate settings.”
The organization scored one of the great moral victories of the Aspen culture sector in summer 2020 by successfully staging a series of distanced JAS Café concerts on the rooftop of the Aspen Art Museum. Horowitz is confident they’ll be able to produce a similar series this summer, possibly with more than the severely limited 50-person crowd from last summer.
The organization is also planning to move forward with its June Experience — hosting acts in small venues throughout the Aspen core — and Labor Day Experience — traditionally staged at Snowmass Town Park — which were both postponed a full year last summer, holding onto their much-anticipated lineups.
“We’re cautiously optimistic about everything,” Horowitz said, adding that he expects to be able to announce some details in April about how summer festivals will proceed.
Live music fans keeping an eye on the 2021 festival and touring calendar have reason to be hopeful for the Labor Day Experience — with Stevie Nicks, Eric Church and Kings of Leon headlining — as major festivals and tours have already begun announcing plans to proceed with late summer and early fall events as vaccination rates gradually rise.
Meanwhile, Jazz Aspen has city approvals to build its JAS Center on the Cooper Avenue pedestrian mall above the historic Red Onion bar and restaurant. Fundraising campaigns and building plans for the project have been on hold due to the pandemic, but Horowitz said it is still moving forward.
Though musicians, venues and presenters have been hard-hit by the pandemic and its attendant economic crisis, Horowitz said Jazz Aspen remains healthy organizationally and financially thanks largely to supporters’ loyalty. He noted the importance, for instance, of festival ticket-holders retaining their tickets rather than taking refunds as the Labor Day and June events were pushed a year.
“We feel really good about the loyalty and how our base has stuck with us,” Horowitz said. “The message we’ve gotten from people is ‘We’ll be here.’ We’re all just waiting for the sun to come out.”
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