Jazzanooga embodies city's arts/culture scene

Jazzanooga embodies city's arts/culture scene

June 3rd, 2016 by Barry Courter in FYI - 2015

Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press/ Jan 2, 2011 - Emilio Pena, 6, left and his sister Daniella Pena, 2, look at a piece of artwork while Caroline McCombs, 7, right, cq, holds up her sister Katherine McCombs, 3, so she can see how the artwork looks different from the top than it does on the side. Both families came to enjoy the Hunter Museum because of its free admission on the first Sunday of the month.

Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Jazzanooga embodies city's arts/culture scene

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Chattanooga has any number of events that it could claim as its signature event. Riverbend, 4 Bridges Arts Festival, Wine Over Water, 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival, the Southern Brewers Festival, the Nightfall concert series and RiverRocks can all legitimately lay claim to the honor.

Chattanooga can also brag about the Hunter Museum of American Art and the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera, which for the first time in several years will be able to present an opera, which it will do twice on March 23 and 25 in 2017 with fully staged presentations of "Madame Butterfly."

But, Jazzanooga might best embody everything that is good about the arts and entertainment culture in the city. It was started in 2011 by Shane Morrow as a one-day event to celebrate jazz and the city's role in making it America's "classical music." Today, it takes place almost year-round with multiple events held at multiple locations throughout the city. Some are ticketed, but most are free or low cost and they involve live music performances by world renowned artists and classes or workshops for young budding artists.

The Jazzanooga Festival, the organization's signature event, runs throughout April. Headlining will be Christian McBride Trio, Julie Dexter, Arturo O'Farrill and Julian Lage. Last year's festival drew 6,791 people who saw 126 musicians or artists perform during 15 musical events, 10 education events, a walking tour, arts forum and a traveling exhibit.

Even Morrow himself never dreamed the city would embrace his idea to this extent.

"No, never," he said. "I never in my wildest dreams thought it would be a multi-month event. I remember saying, 'I need for Jazzanooga to be what the community needs it to be.'"

"I wanted to bring more awareness to all the cultural opportunities and what the power of the arts does here in Chattanooga. It's how we celebrate our differences. We can always unite through the power of the arts."

Last year, Jazzanooga moved into it's own office/classroom/performance space on MLK Boulevard. It programs its events into area churches, parks and venues like The Bessie Smith Cultural Center and Memorial Auditorium. It is funded in large part by the Lyndhurst, McKenzie and Benwood foundation and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.