The 2021 Athens Jazz Festival is taking the stage March 22-27 virtually this year due to COVID-19.

Two main guests are presenting clinics and performing with OU students and faculty: Bria Skonberg, a trumpeter, singer and songwriter and Carl Allen, a drummer and educator.

Performing music over Zoom and Microsoft Teams is not the traditional means. Therefore, the festival will use a mixture of live and pre-recorded performances. Skonberg collaborated with students and faculty, performing some of her original compositions.

Matthew James, director of the Jazz Ensemble I and faculty member at OU, has been very hands-on planning the festival.

“All of the recordings were done by students, faculty, and Bria at our homes!” James said in an email. “So there has been a LOT of audio and video work going on to produce the final products.”

A live concert will be streamed Saturday, March 27, from the OU Memorial Auditorium. Jazz Ensemble I will perform in small groups that feature various sections of the ensemble.

Skonberg sees the importance of holding a virtual adaptation of the festival instead of canceling it altogether.

“Jazz is about improvising and finding ways to navigate changes, so it’s only fitting that we adapt to this new setting,” Skonberg said in an email. “It’s definitely challenging, but that just means we’re growing and learning. Arts are essential for our well-being in that they help us communicate and create authentic connections. Continuing the festival is important to keeping the community connected and celebrating the hard work and progress of the incredible students and staff. I’m very grateful to be included in this year’s festival and hope many people tune in.”

Photo of Bria Skonberg provided via Athens Jazz Festival website.

OU holds a special place in Allen’s heart, as he knows some of the faculty and his son graduated in 2016. He especially looks forward to working and interacting with the OU students.

“I applaud Ohio University for keeping the festival alive and not canceling during COVID because music has the potential to heal and we have to keep music going,” Allen said in an email. “Music has the ability to bring people together even if it is virtually.”

Photo of Carl Allen provided via Athens Jazz Festival website.

The first day of the festival featured an online masterclass with Allen and the OU Percussion Studio. Wednesday, March 24, Allen will present OU MUS 1090 Performance Lab students. That same evening, Skonberg will work with OU jazz students in an online clinic.

Saturday, March 27, will feature an online conversation with Skonberg. The festival will close out Saturday afternoon with the performance from OU Jazz Ensemble I.

For details and links to the free event, check out the Athens Jazz Festival website.