Organizers for Norman’s Jazz in June music festival have announced the event has been rescheduled to September due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a May 4 Facebook post, organizers said for the first time in the event’s 37-year history, Jazz in June won’t be in June, but from Sept. 17 to 19. According to the post, the rescheduling was due to “an abundance of concern for our artists, audience and community regarding the coronavirus.”
Eric Walschap, program chair of Jazz in June, coordinator of facilities and technology and instructor at the OU Catlett School of Music, said the decision to move the festival was difficult but necessary.
“We were obviously very concerned about the safety of everybody in Norman, first and foremost,” Walschap said. “We bounced back between ideas of ‘Do we postpone? Do we go online completely? Do we cancel?’ I mean, it's called Jazz in June.”
Ultimately, Walschap said, organizers decided to plan on a September festival at Norman’s Brookhaven Village.
“Nobody knows what the future holds,” Walschap said. “But we're hedging our bets that maybe by September, the world's a little bit safer.”
Walschap, who was first introduced to the festival when he played saxophone with his high school jazz band at the 2003 Jazz in June Festival, said the event is a Norman staple. According to Walschap, the festival brings 35,000–50,000 people to Norman and about $3 million to the local economy.
“It would be the biggest shame to cancel a festival that has always happened in 37 years without any issues,” Walschap said. “There’s been rain, there’s been lightning, we’ve had to cut nights short and stuff, but we’ve always had some kind of music. And I would hate (if it was canceled) under my watch, despite the circumstances which none of us can obviously help or prevent.”
Walschap said Jazz in June uses jazz and blues to bring people together by introducing them to new artists and sub-genres.
“In years past, we’ve really stretched what jazz is,” Walschap said. “With our artist selections, (there has been) some pretty crazy stuff and groups that you wouldn't think you would ever see on a jazz festival. But it’s all about experiencing new things and learning what's out there.”
While the traditional Jazz in June festival won’t be in June, organizers are still working to bring jazz to people in June by hosting a live-stream event on the original festival date, June 18. The event will be broadcast live on the Jazz in June YouTube channel from 7–9:30 p.m. and will feature local music artists Jay Wilkinson and Caleb McGee & The Underdogs.
Walschap said he acknowledged the possibility of COVID-19 still being an obstacle to large gatherings in September, but he was hoping for the best. He said organizers will be closely monitoring the situation throughout the summer and may make adjustments to how the festival will work.
Walschap said organizers may explore social distancing options, mask-wearing or reducing the number of festival-goers allowed in areas, but no decision on how the festival could be altered has been made.
Walschap said organizers were particularly excited about the rescheduled festival because all of the acts originally lined up 18 months ago agreed to perform in September. The festival will feature blues artists Dirty Red & the Soul Shakers and Ghost Town Blues Band, jazz from the Oklahoma City Jazz Orchestra, Lao Tizer, Max Ridgway Trio, Marquis Hill Blacktet and headliner Shaun Martin from the band Snarky Puppy.
Performances will start at 7:30 and end at 10:30 every night of the three-day festival.