Fest Five: Executive Director Brendan Rawson

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This is our second Summer Fest with Executive Director Brendan Rawson at the helm. When we approached him to offer his Summer Fest take, he was excited to join in and provided a fun spin on all the new changes we’re delivering to Summer Fest this year. Brendan used our Fest Five format to help highlight some Summer Fest 2013 hallmarks. Here, in his words, he provides us with his five exciting festival changes

1. A More Walkable Festival

“Immediately after last year’s festival, we really took on a task of making the Fest a more easily walkable, exploratory experience for attendees. We’ve really tried this year to put some thought into the ease of flow.

“Starting at the Main Stage, patrons can now freely move from the Main Stage to the Kaiser Permanente Salsa Stage without having to leave the grounds and re-enter. We’ve moved the YP Blues Stage to one of the best blocks downtown for doing event work – the Post Lightston area. It’s one of the most historic blocks down town and has an environment that lends itself to blues and big easy.

“We’ve also really worked to connect the dots. The Bank of the West Next Gen Stage is now right there on San Fernando just down from the Kaiser Permanente Salsa Stage. We’re also holding our Latin Jazz Jam there. It serves then as a great festival. Also, We haven’t changed the site of the Metro Gordon Bierschstage, but it’s an easy hop now to head over to Mezcal & Billy Berk’s [Bank of the West Next Gen Stage site].

“The Rep stage is another great example. We’ve doubled down over there to create a destination, but we’ve also connected the dots between the Main Stage and Rep Stage by adding the Adobe Blackbird Tavern Stage in between these two major stage. It’s another opportunity for people to explore some great music.

“We’re really interested in hearing how people experience the Fest’s new walkability, and we hope this encourages you to get out and explore the festival.

2. Latin Jazz — Everywhere

“We’ve sought out some real quality Latin jazz acts that to place on the Main Stage, Rep Stage, Adobe Blackbird Tavern Stage, Verizon Swing Stage and more.

“All over the festival, you’re going to find exceptional quality Latin jazz acts, and we want San Jose Jazz Summer Fest to be known for that. We want people to know when they come from around the country to see the festival, they’re going to be exposed to people like Dafnis Prieto – folks that are just going to blow your mind – and that San Jose Jazz is the conduit to introducing folks to things like that.

“We want to present the best that’s out there, and this is our strategy for doing it. We’re going to put Latin jazz acts on the Main Stage and in our signature places, as well as include it as part of our Jazz+ programming, to share our enthusiasm for the art form with everybody else.”

Watch below as Board Member, and “Mister Latin Jazz,” Arturo Riera introduces the numerous Latin jazz and salsa greats that will be on-hand at Summer Fest 2013.

3. Outstanding Jazz at the Rep

“We’re a jazz organization, and we are thrilled about what we’re putting on the San Jose Rep Stage. It’s an exceptional line-up – Charlie Hunter & Scott Amendola, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Dafnis Prieto, Stacey Kent, the Cookers, Let Jazz Hot, Preservation Hall Jazz Band. For just an extra $10 a day, that’s pretty impressive.

“This should be an outstanding treat for jazz fans. You can easily spend the whole day camped out at the Rep Stage and be treated to some brilliant artists, and I’m excited about the idea of this being a format that will continue to allow us to do that. It’s going to be a hard stage to stay away from. Great acoustics. Great sight lines – every seat in that auditorium is wonderful.”

4. Three Nights of Jazz Beyond

“The RBC Jazz Beyond Stage is our most direct connection to what we’ve been experimenting with around our Winter Fest programming. We’ve been bringing in some very exciting, young cutting-edge artists who are pushing the jazz idiom and art form forward. They’re doing some amazing work that’s getting recognized throughout the jazz world.

“Jazz beyond in the past has been a bit of an add on. Our programming provides plenty of opportunities in terms of trade offs with a festival experience – you can’t be everywhere at the same time – and it’s been very easy in years past to not get a Jazz Beyond fix.

“The idea of three nights of programming to explore what we’ve been doing in our jazz beyond realm is a great opportunity. Working with Universal Grammar on this stuff is a great thing, and it’s nice to have Pagoda as a home for some of our year round work. We’re excited about it moving forward with monthly jazz beyond programming. Come get a taste for what you’ll be able to find throughout the year ahead at this stage.”

5. A Parade!

“This is such a welcoming community experience – a parade where folks can join in and come along with us to help us kick of our Big Easy Stage programming. I think it’s a natural reflection of San Jose. It’s just a lot of fun, and it’s going to be neat combining the samba and the New Orleans pieces of Bug Horn Rex. It’s going to be a great way to start your day on Saturday.”