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The inaugural National Jazz Festival took place on February 15th, 2020 in historic Philadelphia. We hosted 1200 high school and middle school jazz musicians from 11 states across the country. The event was run and organized solely by volunteers and made possible by a grant from the Waterman II Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation and donations from businesses and music lovers alike. Registration fees for schools were kept to a minimum and admission was free and open to the general public.
On May 22, 2021, the National Jazz Festival hosted a virtual event featuring 50 schools — as well as 19 vocalists and 20 instrumentalists — from 18 states and Puerto Rico. Our participating schools’ videos aired on YouTube with accompanying adjudicator comments. We also introduced two new additions: the NJF Individual Soloist Category and the SmartMusic Category, sponsored by SmartMusic and Alfred Music. Gordon Goodwin and the Big Phat Band adjudicated the SmartMusic Category and conducted masterclasses over Zoom for participants. Our other clinicians, our adjudicators and volunteers all gave their time to make this new iteration of the festival a success. Thanks to our many sponsors, we were able to award various winners with software plug-ins and headsets. The event culminated in a virtual awards ceremony.
Currently, the National Jazz Festival is registering participants for its second virtual festival to be aired on May 21, 2022.
The National Jazz Festival was created by instrumental and vocal jazz directors, caring parents, supportive jazz musicians, and avid jazz supporters in an effort to fill the void of a lack of a major national jazz festival with an educational philosophy. Upon the cancellation of other festivals, the National Jazz Festival team saw a need to create an event that allows thousands of students to continue to share their talents and hard work with their peers from around the country. The festival executive committee is being led by Joe Bongiovi. Joe is the director of the Philadelphia Jazz Orchestra and is also the band director at Princeton High School in New Jersey. Joe is currently the President of the New Jersey Association Of Jazz Educators (NJAJE). We are fortunate to have Joe’s extensive high school jazz festival experience and his ties to Philadelphia to help launch this festival.
- Instrumental Large Ensemble & Small Ensemble Categories
- Vocal Large Ensemble, Small Ensemble, & A Cappella Categories
- “Pop-Cappella” Category for your pop-based a cappella groups
- Solo Jazz Vocal Category
- Solo Instrumental Category
- Jazz Composition
- Middle School Invitational category (10 Ensembles Only)
- Jazz Educator Award
- LOVE Award for Students focused on community service/activism and music.
- An optional “Welcome Event”
Each ensemble has the opportunity perform in either a competitive or non-competitive class. There are no ratings, however at the end of the evening the top 4 ensembles in each division will be announced. A full recap sheet of competitive groups will be released at the end of the festival. Non-competitive groups will obviously not be included on that recap.
If you have any questions or desire more information, please email us anytime at:
“It’s not about the awards, or the competition, or the fight to first place, it’s about the community that is created with doing something that we all love.”
– Gill Scott High School Jazz Musician