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COVID & the Arts: Bix Jazz Fest Will Be Virtual

Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival
from the Bix jazz fest in 2019

The 49 th-annual Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival will be virtual this year for the first time.

Joining the cavalcade of Quad-Cities cultural offerings affected by Covid-19, the Bix jazz festival in Davenport also is moving online this year, July 31 and August 1. Steve Trainor, Bix Society board president, says it had been scheduled for the Rhythm City Casino Event Center in Davenport, but bands this time will record videos that can be seen for free.

“I think the majority of the board of directors of the Bix Jazz Society had felt, almost from the beginning that this was not going to be your typical year. And like everyone else, the more we learned every day, every week, the less reasonable it seemed to hold a live festival and we were still holding out hope. But it kept getting to a point where we really had to decide to do something.”

One of the biggest concerns of the board was, many performers and visitors would not be able to travel to attend, noting a majority of patrons come from out of state. The scheduled bands this year are: Joe Smith and the Spicy Pickles from Denver; Chicago Cellar Boys, led by Andy Schumm; Vine Street Rumble from Kansas City; NOLA from Des Moines, and from the Quad Cities, the Josh Duffee Quartet, Manny Lopez Big Band, and the Bix Youth Band, comprised of area teens.

Trainor says the Bix fest attracts an older-age demographic, who are also at higher risk of contracting the respiratory diseases caused by coronavirus.

“With this virus, people may feel fine, but you just never know if you’re gonna catch it. We didn’t want to be responsible for bringing people together and then having someone get sick.”

Credit Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival
from the 2019 Bix jazz festival

Another plus by having the fest online is, people can watch it during the actual dates or anytime afterward. Typically, this event is the organization’s annual fundraising event, and proceeds are used to sponsor a Bix Youth Jazz Band and director, provide music scholarships, and promote traditional jazz-era music of the 1920s and ‘30s. Trainor says the society will encourage donations to help offset the costs of providing this virtual jazz fest, music scholarships, and programs.

“We’re going to kick off our fundraising campaign. We may do something like ’50 for 50’ -- $50,000 over the next year for our 50 th anniversary in 2021. We hope that not only will send us a portion of what they might have spent traveling to Davenport, but throughout the year we will be able to continue to fundraise and spend more money on more bands for 2021.”

Trainor said next year’s festival is planned for August 5-7, 2021, and it'll be a big 50th anniversary celebration, with more bands from around the country. For more information or to donate, visit bixsociety.org.

Formerly the arts and entertainment reporter for The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus and Quad-City Times, Jonathan Turner now writes freelance for WVIK and QuadCities.com. He has experience writing for daily newspapers for 32 years and has expertise across a wide range of subject areas, including government, politics, education, the arts, economic development, historic preservation, business, and tourism. He loves writing about music and the arts, as well as a multitude of other topics including features on interesting people, places, and organizations. He has a passion for accompanying musicals, singers, choirs, and instrumentalists. He even wrote his own musical based on The Book of Job, which premiered at Playcrafters in 2010. He wrote a 175-page history book about downtown Davenport, which was published by The History Press in 2016. Turner was honored in 2009 to be among 24 arts journalists nationwide to take part in a 10-day fellowship offered by the National Endowment for the Arts in New York City on classical music and opera, based at Columbia University’s journalism school.
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