The Festival has its roots in the Museum’s Contemporary Music Series, which was a decade old when Jim Spiegel, a longtime Museum supporter with a love of jazz, pitched the idea to Erie Art Museum Director John Vanco and then helped organize it. Museum concerts are intimate experiences—hosting audiences of thousands is very different; but Jim helped us take the chance. We chose Frontier Park, which is a beautiful setting and an ideal space to maintain the quality of the sound.
The mission of the Erie Art Museum is to present art in all its forms, and the Festival reflects that. Booking the Festival lineup is not unlike choosing the menu for an eight-course meal, or curating an art exhibition; selections must stand on their own as well as work with the other choices. Jazz and blues have been lifelong preoccupation of Director John Vanco. “I listen to music all the time—my library shelves groan with the weight of over 20,000 records. It’s crucial to present authentic music—I favor artists who have a personal style, compose their own music, and are engaged in the tradition. An artist’s fame is not important to me; I will always choose quality over celebrity.”
We are passionate about our Blues & Jazz Festival because the art—in this case the music—is completely accessible to the community. It is wonderful to witness people of all stripes, from all walks of life, enjoying great music together. We’re honored that some families choose to host their annual reunions and picnics right at the Festival, and we love seeing kids dancing in front of the stage, and watching those kids grow up. Seeing the park packed shoulder-to-shoulder all the way to 8th Street? That couldn’t be more gratifying.
As John Vanco reflects, “My philosophy has always been to focus on the music. It’s great art. And that’s what we’re about at the Erie Art Museum. Presenting quality art. Thank you for making that happen.”
Please support the Erie Art Museum Blues & Jazz Festival, now in its 25th year! We want to continue to offer this program for free for the Erie community.