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Jazz in June festival to feature several live performances; aims to recognize centrality of African American culture

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jazz in june 2021

Jazz in June flyer.

The 38th annual Jazz in June festival will feature musical artists, jazz performances and food trucks starting at 7:30 p.m. June 17-18 at Brookhaven Village and at 6:30 p.m. June 19 at Andrews Park. 

Thomas Carey, the founder of the Cimarron Circuit Opera Company, first produced the concert series to raise funds for the company, according to the Jazz in June website. After the first concert in 1984 attracted over 300 people, the Norman Arts and Humanities Council and KGOU joined the project, making it an annual nonprofit organization, which has drawn more than 50,000 people over the past few years.

Kate Bierman, Ward 1 Councilmember and the Jazz in June logistics director, said the festival is a time for music artists and the Norman community alike to come together and enjoy the jazz genre. 

“Jazz in June is a festival created to celebrate a musical art form created by African Americans,” Bierman said. “The intent was to export it to the world in the same month as June. It has not escaped our knowledge that this year, the last day of the festival does fall on Juneteenth, and so we are going to be making a recognition of that as well.” 

Juneteenth is a holiday on June 19 that honors the day federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, spreading the news that the U.S. Civil War ended and enslaved people were freed. The first official Juneteenth in Norman was celebrated June 19, 2020. 

The family-friendly, free-to-the-public festival is a chance to enjoy numerous performances by various artists, according to the website. 

This year, according to the festival’s website, artists include Elizabeth Wise and a variety of jazz bands such as Ghost Town Blues Band, Henna Roso, New Orleans-based jazz-funk sextet Naughty Professor, the original Max Ridgway Trio, Brubeck Brothers Quartet and the Lao Tizer Band, who will also feature saxophonist Eric Marienthal.

Bierman said the festival is also a chance to experience jazz in a live setting as well as to expand the love of musical art. 

“One of the motivating reasons that I wanted to join the Jazz in June board is to become more familiar and better versed in a musical form that I don't consume very often,” Bierman said. “I'm really happy to be a part of it, to increase my appreciation and enjoyment of jazz music and encourage that love and appreciation and others who are maybe similarly less familiar with the art form.”

Sheryl Lovelady, communications and marketing director for the event, wrote in an email there will be free artists clinics to hear the bands talk about their music and technique on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 2-3:30 p.m at Gilliam Music. Food trucks will also be available to the public during the festivities. 

“The artists are excited to be here this year and to be in a live format,” Lovelady wrote. “It was a long year of COVID-19, isolation and virtual events. We are so excited to bring live music back to Norman!” 

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