The power of proximity can be hard to quantify. After a year of social distancing and capacity restrictions, it also can be hard to overestimate. We have learned a lot during the past twelve months about public health and the coronavirus, and with vaccination rates rising and case counts falling, safe public events are finally becoming feasible again. In Anchorage, one of the first events to breathe musical life back into our community is Spenard Jazz Fest.
Spenard JazzFest 2021: Heard Immunity is the 14th season of a “multi-disciplinary arts festival that celebrates all musical genres and seeks to strengthen Alaska’s musician community.” During 2020, SJF found ways to carry out that mission at a safe distance. This year, they’ll keep the live streams, and also open up local venues for in-person gatherings. The recently renovated, frequently-sanitized Spenard hub The Nave will host most of the concerts; Van’s Dive Bar will invite audiences of all types to a conversation in words and sound between SJF and its sister program, Amplify Alaska; some of our city’s most seasoned musicians, along with a rising star, will light up the lawn at Anchorage Museum; and house concerts will add a personal touch to the festivities while providing a special opportunity to support local musicians through sponsorship and donation.
The significance of SJF 2021 is broader than reopening our beloved AK music scene. The festival launched on International Jazz Day (April 30th) with performances from its very own Alaska Real Book—a compilation of original compositions by musicians connected to Alaska. Much like the festival itself, the book symbolizes an opportunity and a perspective. The opportunity is to connect through music. By playing one another’s songs, we build community and get to know our fellow Alaskans. The perspective is simply that connecting in that way is important. There are plenty of other songs to play and listen to (six volumes comprise The Real Book from which our homegrown compendium draws its name), but those are not OUR songs.
Spenard Jazz Fest is not the only show in town to lift up the creative voices of Alaskans…but it’s next up! SJF 2021: Heard Immunity picks up again today, June 1 at 7 PM in The Nave and continues through the week. Check out their website for concert info, merchandise, updates, and membership.