NSights Blog

Forging a new legacy of Jazz in celebration of 60 years

One of the campus' most enduring events – the Reno Jazz Festival – has been reimagined

During the past two years, the pandemic has challenged many of us to reprioritize and realign ourselves with our core values.

In the same way, these past two years have offered a moment to reflect upon the Reno Jazz Festival. We’ve asked ourselves, what are our values and how can the Festival embody these principles in a larger and more impactful way?

This month we are thrilled to celebrate the Reno Jazz Festival’s 60th anniversary year with a monumental return to the stage and a newly defined approach and strategy. This reimagined festival, intended to serve musicians for the next sixty years and beyond, is built upon the success of the past sixty years and informed by some of the most pressing issues facing jazz today.

This year’s Festival will be like none other. We’re returning with a much more intimate experience, with the headliner concert taking place in Hall Recital Hall (as opposed to the traditional Lawlor Events Center).

We’ll kick-off the Festival on Thursday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. with an opening performance featuring jazz vocalist Michael Mayo performing alongside our faculty jazz ensemble, The Collective, of which I am a member. A truly gifted composer, performer, and improviser, Mayo is a rising star in the jazz world and we are all thrilled to perform with him in Nightingale Concert Hall.

On Friday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m., groundbreaking saxophonist, Miguel Zenón, will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. in Hall Recital Hall alongside his quartet. A MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellow and multiple Grammy Nominee, Zenón, a represents a select group of musicians who have masterfully balanced and blended the often contradictory poles of innovation and tradition.

After Zenón’s performance, we’ll head over to Laughing Planet for a jam session that will last well into the early hours of the morning.

The Festival includes two full days of workshops on a range of jazz related topics and offered from some of the country’s leading jazz artists and educators. Topics include Forging a  New Legacy in Jazz with Berklee College of Music’s Managing Director of the Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, Finding and Honing Your Compositional Voice with pianist and composer Annie Booth, and Finding Your Way through Harmony with saxophonist and composer Otto Lee.

It is my honor to share some of the steps we are taking in support of an equitable and reflective field of jazz musicians, educators and supporters:

Forging a New Legacy in Jazz

We are committed to participating in a national conversation about equity in jazz and furthering a new legacy. We’ve established a new partnership with the Berklee College of Music’s Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice (BIJGJ) and will the Festival will now feature workshops by BIJGJ faculty. This year, we’ll be hosting an extended conversation about an equitable future of jazz as one of our highlighted Festival workshops.

We’ve also set some equity benchmarks so that we can commit to representing a diverse field of jazz artists, At least 50% of the artists and educators that we hire will represent historically underrepresented communities and at least 50% will be female or represent a gender minority.

Promote the Performance of Music by Underrepresented Artists

We will work to further the composition of jazz music by women and underrepresented communities and getting this music in the hands of music directors and students across the country. We’re commissioning new music each year and will make this music available to all participating schools at no charge. Ensembles that perform the music during the Festival are invited to attend a meet and greet event with the composer.

Collaborative Educational Experience

We aim to foster a collaborative and non-competitive learning environment. The Reno Jazz Festival is no longer a competitive Festival but one that prioritizes a deeper and more immersive learning experience with extended time for coaching and feedback with seasoned artists and educators.


Peter Epstein
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