Jazz in the Valley: The high note of Ellensburg’s summer

The+Ellensburg+Big+Band+are+one+of+many+groups+who+will+be+performing+at+Jazz+in+the+Valley+this+summer.+The+group+performs+at+many+events+around+the+community%2C+including+the+Ellensburg+Swing+Out+and+Valentine%E2%80%99s+Day%0ASoiree+at+CWU.+This+year%E2%80%99s+Jazz+in+the+Valley+will+take+place+July+26-28+at+various+venues+around+downtown+Ellensburg.
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Jazz in the Valley: The high note of Ellensburg’s summer

The Ellensburg Big Band are one of many groups who will be performing at Jazz in the Valley this summer. The group performs at many events around the community, including the Ellensburg Swing Out and Valentine’s Day
Soiree at CWU. This year’s Jazz in the Valley will take place July 26-28 at various venues around downtown Ellensburg.

The Ellensburg Big Band are one of many groups who will be performing at Jazz in the Valley this summer. The group performs at many events around the community, including the Ellensburg Swing Out and Valentine’s Day Soiree at CWU. This year’s Jazz in the Valley will take place July 26-28 at various venues around downtown Ellensburg.

The Ellensburg Big Band are one of many groups who will be performing at Jazz in the Valley this summer. The group performs at many events around the community, including the Ellensburg Swing Out and Valentine’s Day Soiree at CWU. This year’s Jazz in the Valley will take place July 26-28 at various venues around downtown Ellensburg.

The Ellensburg Big Band are one of many groups who will be performing at Jazz in the Valley this summer. The group performs at many events around the community, including the Ellensburg Swing Out and Valentine’s Day Soiree at CWU. This year’s Jazz in the Valley will take place July 26-28 at various venues around downtown Ellensburg.

Sean Quinn, Staff Reporter

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For many years, Sasquatch was seen by some as the dominant music festival in Eastern Washington as the summer season rolled into action. Thousands of attendees graced the fields of the Gorge Amphitheater for the multigenre collection of musicians. With Sasquatch no longer held, the number of music festivals in Washington state featuring various types of sounds may be slimmer.

Jazz in the Valley, an annual multigenre music festival held in Ellensburg seeks to fill that void for music listeners in the summer.

Jazz in the Valley has been held 21 times over the years, filling the air with music right here in this small town. What originally began as a jazz-exclusive festival morphed into the multigenre, local-artist-showcasing celebration of the arts. At this year’s festival, there will be over 20 artists playing music from eight different genres, including rock, blues, latin, funk and, of course, jazz. Besides the music, the festival also features beer and wine gardens with beverages from local companies like Iron Horse Brewery, Gard Vintners and many others.  The event is mostly run by volunteers, who come together in the last weekend of July to make the festival run smoothly.

One of the key figureheads behind the operations of the festival is its president, Tony Swartz. Swartz has held the reigns of the event for two years now. When he is not busy meeting with the 15-member board to plan the event, he works a plethora of other jobs as an attorney, a business and law and justice instructor at CWU and a board member for the CWU Alumni Association. Swartz appreciates the uniqueness of this festival compared to many others out there where people gather in one large area to stand around one giant stage.

“Jazz in the Valley is built on getting people into the downtown core, into businesses,” Swartz said. “So we have music everywhere from bars, wine venues [and] there’s even a venue in a furniture store.”

The three-day weekend event is also relatively friendly to the wallet for many who frequent music festivals. Sasquatch 2018 ticket prices were $325 per person. A festival pass at Watershed this year will run you $215, not including camping. Swartz believes the affordability of this festival encourages those from all backgrounds to come out and enjoy the sounds of great music amongst local businesses.

“It’s really cheap. It’s $60 for the entire weekend. If you look at any other music festival, it’s a lot more than that,” Swartz said.

Swartz attributes the reason for serving as the president of the festival to his background as a musician and a consistent showing of the arts. As a musician, he wishes for people like him to have a multitude of venues to play their craft.

Just because the name is “Jazz in the Valley” doesn’t mean there isn’t something for everyone.

“I frequently tell people it’s Ellensburg’s music festival, more than it is Ellensburg’s jazz festival,” Swartz said.

Swartz’s role as a musician plays a key part in the event, not only from a planning standpoint, but also performing. He plays trumpet in the Ellensburg Big Band, a group of volunteer musicians based in Ellensburg. The group specializes in swing music, a subgenre of jazz. The 18-20 member band’s mission, according to their website, “is to provide great live big band music for the entertainment, education, and enjoyment of our community.” The band is made up of a majority of CWU alumni and even some current CWU students and professors. Jazz in the Valley is just one of the many gigs for this group, as they have traveled not only across Washington state for events, but even as far as Japan a few years ago. This October, the group will travel to New Zealand.

Co-founded in 2011 in part by Bruce Herman and Josh Parrill, the group will be performing at Jazz in the Valley for the fourth time. Herman, a trumpet player in the Ellensburg Big Band, appreciates the history of the event as he was an original board member for the first ever Jazz in The Valley held over 20 years ago. He also compares the scenes of the festival to an entirely different landscape than one would expect.

“You can roam around from place to place,” Herman said. “It’s like downtown Ellensburg becomes like roaming around Bourbon Street in New Orleans or roaming around parts of New York, where there’s music coming out every door that you happen past.”

Parrill believes a reason the festival is the success that it is today is because of the evolving acceptance of different sounds that the festival may not have originally been geared for.

“[The Jazz in the Valley board] are willing to spread out to a wider audience. That’s what’s been pushing it forward. They’ve got rock and funk. They have really good entertaining bands,” Parrill said. “There is something for everybody that likes different types of music. It’s hard to find something that you won’t enjoy every single night. You’ll find something that you just love.”

Jazz in the Valley runs from Friday, July 26, to Sunday, July 28, in multiple venues in downtown Ellensburg. Alongside the Ellensburg Big Band, the festival features acts like Rusty Cage, Harmonious Funk, Black Dolly, the CWU Jazz Camp and others. You can find tickets to the event on their website: https://www.jazzinthevalley.com/tickets.html

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