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Rochester Jazz Festival relents to reality, cancels 2020 season

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The producers of the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival, having previously postponed their June event to October due to concerns over the pandemic, announced Friday that the festival would be canceled altogether.

The festival is scheduled to resume in 2021 from June 18 through June 26.

Producers Marc Iacona and John Nugent said the call to cancel this year's event was made reluctantly after the summer festival, originally slated for June 19 through June 27, was rescheduled for October 2 through October 10. They said they had hoped to come up with practical ways for the anticipated crowds to gather responsibly, but that the prognosis of the pandemic was too uncertain, even into the fall.

“This is the decision we didn’t want to make,” Iacona and Nugent said in a joint statement. “We held out hope for as long as possible even as most major festivals and concert events around the world were postponing. But as we have now arrived at a critical junction, needing to finalize artists and logistic arrangements, reality has prevailed.

"We are deep in the throes of a global public health crisis," the statement went on. "The health and safety of patrons, artists, and our team including hundreds of volunteers must come first. We do not foresee being able to present the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival in October in a completely safe, enjoyable, or practical way where tens of thousands of people can safely gather.

"We will, therefore, postpone our 19th edition to June 2021 and make every effort to reschedule as many, if not all of the previously confirmed artists as possible."



The nine-day festival annually draws more than 200,000 people from dozens of states and 20 countries around the world. The festival's lineup includes roughly 325 performances by some 1,750 local, national, and international artists.

Physical distancing guidelines present complications for the festival's large and intimate gatherings alike, drastically reducing capacity and limiting the amount of fans each venue could accommodate. For example, density restrictions have reduced Eastman School of Music's Kodak Hall and Eastman Theatre venues to a maximum of 25 percent capacity, a mandate that cannot accommodate the current number of tickets sold. 

Additionally, domestic and international travel restrictions with unpredictable end dates have prevented artists from solidifying travel plans. Other logistics involving restrooms, sanitation, food and beverage services, further complicated the planning.

The producers said that while it will take them time to iron out the logistics for the 2021 festival, they had rescheduled this year's headline acts of Puss N Boots and Spyro Gyra for the following festival.

Puss N Boots is slated to perform on Friday, June 18, and Spyro Gyra is scheduled to take the stage on Tuesday, June 22.

The producers said ticket holders for those shows would have their seats at next year's performances. Tickets for those shows can still be bought at rochesterjazz.com.

Current Club Pass holders can choose to redeem their passes for the 2021 festival, or for the following two years, in 2022 or 2023, according to the producers.

Rebecca Rafferty is CITY's arts & entertainment editor. She can be reached at becca@rochester-citynews.com.