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Jazz And Heritage Festival | Where Music and Heritage Meet

jazz and heritage festival

New Orleans is known for being the party town of the United States of America, so it’s no wonder that many of the festivals in America are hosted here. Though there are a lot of parties and clubbing scenes held in the city all year round, rarely do you get to see the local talent and the heritage side of the people come out and perform their art. From music pieces, to art showcases and much more, you get to see a side of New Orleans that’s not commercial and much more rooted to the culture of the local people. Also, this is one of the best places to visit with your family in America.

Additional Info : The festival is mostly music oriented
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Festival Dates 2022: 29th April – 8th May, 2022
Famous For: Music Festival

Jazz And Heritage Festival Background

In 1962, Olaf Lambert, the manager of the Royal Orleans Hotel in the French Quarter contacted George Wein, a jazz mogul and founder of the Newport Jazz Festival and the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island and asked him to bring his festival model to New Orleans. Wein met with Mayor Victor H. Schiro, Seymour Weiss a hotel executive and civic leader, and a few members of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce to discuss the proposition. They decided that New Orleans and the South were not ready for a jazz festival. It was a time in the city’s history that was fraught with racism and segregationists reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. City ordinances were still in place that prohibited interaction between black and white musicians, tourists and locals and prevented revitalization of the economy in this manner.

Two years after their initial meeting, Lambert again contacted George Wein and asked him to plan what was to be called the New Orleans International Jazz Festival for the spring of 1965. Racial tensions were on the rise, and the non-profit community effort was postponed because of “integration tensions”. In the meantime, the proposed Annual New Orleans International Jazz Festival moved ahead under the auspices of attorney Dean A. Andrews Jr. Community organizations such as the New Orleans Jazz Club were not invited, and the event failed to attract big names, which Andrews claimed was by design. “Our idea is not to bring in big-time musicians. We want to tell the story of the New Orleans sound, to show the evolution of New Orleans jazz.”

In 1967, Durel Black, a local businessman and president of the New Orleans Jazz Club, convinced the local Chamber of Commerce that it was time to make another attempt at starting a jazz festival in New Orleans. The city would celebrate its 250th anniversary in 1968, and Black recognized it as an opportunity to promote the festival. Wein was asked again to develop the festival; however, when it was discovered that his wife Joyce was African-American, the offer was retracted, and events director Tommy Walker was hired instead. A jazz festival was planned, and evening concerts were held in 1968 under the billing The International Jazzfest with headliners that included Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and a variety of other artists.

In 1969, a second International Jazzfest took place, resulting in a negative return on investment, despite its big name lineup. Durel Black contacted Wein yet again, assured him that his interracial marriage was no longer an issue, and asked him to take charge of the festival. Wein agreed and was prepared and motivated to protect the culture and heritage in Louisiana. However, he also recognized the barriers that prevented the International JazzFest of ’69 from flourishing. He concluded that the format of the festival had to be changed from the ground up, and that local collaboration was necessary for it to succeed. He contacted Allan Jaffe, director of Preservation Hall, who arranged the necessary connections with Allison Miner, Quint Davis and several other promoters.

Jazz And Heritage Festival features

The Festival features a variety of local food and craft vendors. The official food policy of the Festival is “no carnival food”. There are more than seventy food booths that include local dishes like crawfish beignets, cochon de lait sandwiches, alligator sausage po’ boy (sandwich), boiled crawfish, softshell crab po’boy, Cajun jambalaya, jalapeño bread, fried green tomatoes, Oyster patties, muffulettas, red beans and rice, and crawfish Monica. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available. All food vendors are small, locally owned businesses. Jazz Fest ranks second to Mardi Gras in terms of local economic impact.

Craft vendors are set up throughout the grounds, as are craft-making demonstrations. There are three main areas including the Congo Square African Marketplace, which features crafts from local, national, and international artisans; the Contemporary Crafts area, which features handmade clothing, leather goods, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, and musical instruments; and the Louisiana Marketplace, which displays baskets, hand-colored photographs, jewelry and landscape-themed art.

The Festival allocates large areas dedicated to cultural and historical practices unique to Louisiana. There are depictions of the many cultures that exist in the state, such as the Cajun culture, and the Los Isleños, who are descendants of native Canary Islanders. Some of the areas include the Louisiana Folklife Village, which focuses on state art and culture, the Native American Village and the Grandstand. The National Endowment of the Arts has recognized many the work of many of the folk demonstrators.

Parades are also held throughout the event. They include parades by the Mardi Gras Indians, marching bands, brass bands, and social aid and pleasure clubs.

 Festival  Stages and tents

The festival has various performance stages including:

  • The Acura Stage – Main Stage
  • Gentilly Stage – Secondary Main Stage
  • The Congo Square Stage – Afro-centric and World Music
  • Blues Tent – Blues Music
  • Jazz Tent – Contemporary Jazz Music
  • Gospel Tent – Gospel Musicians and Performers
  • Kids Tent – Children’s Music and Performances
  • The Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do Do Stage – Cajun & Zydeco Music
  • Jazz & Heritage Stage – Mardi Gras Indians + Brass Band Performances
  • Allison Miner Music Heritage – Panel Discussions, Fest Information + Live Interviews
  • Food Heritage Stage – Live Cooking Demonstrations
  • Cajun Cabin – Live Cajun Cooking Demonstrations
  • Economy Hall Tent – Traditional New Orleans Jazz
  • Lagniappe Stage – A potpourri of sound and style


Dr. John performing at Jazz Fest

The festival has featured a variety of musicians and performers every year since its founding, ranging from Louisiana musicians to international pop stars. Many popular New Orleans musicians have played annually for long stretches over the history of the festival such as the Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Ellis Marsalis, and The Radiators.

Applications to perform (from the general public) are limited to bands from Louisiana to promote and preserve local culture.

Educational programming

Don “Moose” Jamison Heritage School of Music – The School of Music is the Foundation’s unique cultural education program which began in 1990 as an after-school program. Initially, the school was tuition-free and taught only a few students on the campus of Southern University at New Orleans. In 2014, the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center opened in Tremé. The center is the permanent location of the School and instructs over 200 students each week. Classes now range from after-school to weekends and utilize instrumental techniques, ear training and composition to teach the art of music and performance.
Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture Series – Tom Dent (1932-1998), born to Ernestine and Albert W. Dent. Dent was an African-American cultural activist and poet from New Orleans. He was influenced by cultural writers of African-American struggles. Dent served as the executive director of the Foundation from 1987 to 1990. While serving on the board, he founded the Congo Square Lecture Series. After his death, the name was changed to The Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture series in his honor. The series was created to engage local creatives in scholarly conversations surrounding culture and African-American history. Topics range from Jazz and Creole history, Carnival around the world and the evolution of Jazz funerals in New Orleans.
Class Got Brass Contest – a ‘Battle of the Brass Bands’ for all middle and high schools in Louisiana that was created to encourage school band programs to participate in the musical culture of New Orleans. The winner receives music education funds for their school. Prizes range from $1,000 to $10,000 and non-winners receive a $1,000 stipend for participating. Each band is limited to 12 members, and each member must be currently enrolled in the competing school. Judges consider originality, adherence to tradition, improvisation, tightness and overall presentation when deciding winners.
Songwriting Workshops for Kids with PJ Morton – a series of songwriting workshops that are open to middle and high school students in New Orleans. The workshops and applications are free but are limited to 30 students. Students learn songwriting techniques from PJ Morton.
Mardi Gras Indian Beading and African Drumming Workshops – a series of free workshops that take place at the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center. Beading workshops are led by Howard Miller, the chief of the Creole Wild West Mardi Gras Indian tribe. Miller teaches the workshops to students ages 10–17 in New Orleans. Drumming workshops are led by Luther Gray, head of the Congo Square Preservation Society. Gray provides drums to students who cannot provide their own.

Economic development programming

Jazz & Heritage Music Relief Fund – a statewide relief fund to support musicians who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic caused venue closures all around the world and left many New Orleans’ musicians without a source of income. The Fund has provided emergency grants to over 2500 musicians in the city and the campaign for fundraising is ongoing. Donations continue to be received from organizations like Spotify, Michael Murphy Productions, the Goldring Foundation and the Bentson Foundation.
Community Partnership Grants – proceeds from the Festival are invested back into the community. Over $8 million has been redistributed through community partnership grants to fund cultural projects, all of which must align with the Foundation’s mission. Recent category additions include the Louisiana Cultural Equity Arts Grant which allows BIPOC creatives to focus on creating new works. Applications are accepted from all over Louisiana, and represent a wide range of diversity.
Jazz & Heritage Film Festival – the Foundation works with the New Orleans Video Access Center to put on a festival that showcases documentaries about south Louisiana or that are produced by New Orleans filmmakers. The festival lasts three days and includes screenings and networking for film industry professionals. A majority of the featured films have been awarded funding from the Foundation’s Community Partnership Grants. The festival takes place in February at the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center.
The Catapult Fund – the Foundation supports the local restaurant industry by providing small business owners with funding and business training by way of the Catapult Fund. Funding partners of the Catapult Fund have included Capital One Bank, the Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC,) the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation (LCEF,) and the Ashé Cultural Arts Center. The Fund is open to small business owners in the food and beverage and culinary arts industry. These businesses can include LLC’s, sole-proprietorship’s and incorporated businesses. Over a period of five months, accepted applicants attend 17 free instructional classes focused on business development. Those who participate in the course receive a food safety training certification and leave with new knowledge of key strategies for running a successful business by addressing solutions to the unique challenges the restaurant sector faces in New Orleans. Additionally, a grant pool of $50,000 is portioned and rewarded to participants who successfully complete the course.

Why is jazz and heritage festival celebrated?

Jazz and Heritage Festival, also known as Jazz Fest, is an iconic annual music event that celebrates the rich heritage of jazz music and culture. Held in New Orleans, Louisiana, Jazz Fest has become a hallmark of the city’s vibrant music scene and attracts thousands of visitors from around the world

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