Every year since 1991, an impressive array of jazz musicians, a dedicated staff of presenters from the nonprofit Berks Arts, thousands of fans and an army of volunteers gather to create Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest.
After the success of its first three-day weekend, the festival has evolved into a 10-day extravaganza attracting visitors from all over the country and beyond to the Reading area. The Jazz Fest has become a major event, known for the high quality of its artists, who range from local and regional to national and international. Virtually every genre of jazz, including contemporary, straight-ahead, fusion, Latin, blues, gospel and much more, is represented in intimate clubs and larger venues throughout the county.
Household names like Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck and his sons, Chick Corea, Nancy Wilson—the list goes on and on—have performed at Berks Jazz Fest. And fans have watched a younger generation—Esperanza Spalding, Mindi Abair, Anat Cohen, Eldar, Joey Alexander, and many more—take up the torch and put their own stamp on jazz.
Area high school music students get to rub elbows with established artists in workshops, and hone their chops in jam sessions held by the Get JazzED program, supported by funding from the Reading Musical Foundation. It’s all part of an ongoing effort by the Berks Jazz Fest education committee to ensure the future of this music.
What makes the festival truly one-of-a-kind is that it has never lost its hometown feel. Berks Countians know how to treat their visitors right, both artists and fans, many of whom keep coming back year after year. And local restaurants, hotels and shops are eager to show their hospitality with delicious, diverse cuisines, and unique wares.
In the words of Brian Culbertson, a headliner at the festival for years, “If I were to sum up Berks Jazz Fest in just one word, it would simply be ‘family.’ That’s what it feels like to return every year.”