For over 30 years, CSU Bakersfield has hosted the Bakersfield Jazz Festival every spring. With recent direction from CSUB music lecturer Jim Scully, the festival has become a Bakersfield tradition. However, the festival is on hiatus for 2019. In place of it, CSUB will hold a week of events celebrating the local culture and the investiture of CSUB’s President, Lynnette Zelezny.
Retired CSUB music professor Doug Davis founded and served as the original director of the Bakersfield Jazz Festival when it first began in 1987. As director, it was Davis’ job to round up the regular funding for the festival from community partners. As sponsors of the festival, local businesses benefited from the advertising, and the university was able to invest in several scholarships for music students.
The festival incorporated several famous acts like last year’s act, Poncho Sanchez, a Grammy award-winning Latin jazz musician.
Davis expressed general resignation for the 2019 cancellation, saying “It seems like we have a hiatus for a year at least.”
Davis personally felt that if there had been more of a push to replicate his efforts of previous years to raise funds and gather sponsors for the event, the momentum may have been enough to put it on the calendar this year.
The permanently endowed music scholarships, usually awarded from the stage at the festival, will continue to be fully funded and remain available.
What will be missing this year is the sense of community that has built up around the Bakersfield Jazz Festival over the years.
According to Davis, people from around the region and local sponsors would engage with the festival months in advance.
“My concern is that there’s about $50,000 around town from donors to give to the college that they can’t now because there’s no festival,” said Davis.
In past years, the extra money brought in by the festival would be added to the scholarships, packaged into additional scholarships and used for the benefit of students in the Music Department.
“It sucks,” says vocalist and junior Madelynne Heiss. “I feel upset because I think [the] Jazz Fest has brought a lot of culture to Bakersfield, and it was a big part of the music scene. The fact that it’s getting postponed is a real loss to the community.”
Senior and fellow vocalist Victoria Colley agrees, saying “It’s really disappointing that so many music majors were excited about it, and now it’s not going to happen. I think that’s the saddest part.”
This year’s hiatus is not expected to become permanent.
In a February post on the Bakersfield Jazz Festival Facebook page, Scully referred to the festival as “postponed” until 2020. Scully wrote the organization is going to take this year to “reboot and re-imagine” the event, adding, “We hope to be back and stronger than ever in 2020.”