SPAC Cancels Saratoga Jazz Fest For The First Time In Its 42-Year History

In lieu of the two-day outdoor festival, SPAC has teamed up with Caffè Lena to offer 'Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions.'

Out of concern for the health of its patrons and performers, SPAC and Caffè Lena will offer a virtual Jazz Fest this summer. (Francesco D'Amico)

For the first time in its 42-year history, Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival has been cancelled. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) announced on May 4 that, due to concerns regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in New York State, it would cancel the festival, which was originally slated for the weekend of June 27-28. This year’s Jazz Fest was set to feature musical luminaries such as Grammy winner Nile Rodgers, funk masters Kool & The Gang and jazz singer-songwriter Cassandra Wilson.

“To have to cancel the 2020 festival is both heartbreaking and devastating,” says SPAC’s President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol. “The loss of this event as an exuberant gathering of jazz-lovers is deeply painful—and the economic impact to SPAC, the community and the many artists who were to perform is incalculable.”

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. In lieu of the live event at SPAC’s amphitheater, the venerated performing arts venue also announced that it was partnering with Caffè Lena to offer the “Freihofer’s Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions.” This new live-streamed event will take place over the same dates as the festival weekend (June 27-28), bringing in a roster of artists and groups of three or fewer—including musicians who’ve been directly affected by the pandemic—to the historic Saratoga venue’s stage for a weekend full of fun virtual musicality. Last month, Caffè Lena was deemed “essential” by the state, opening up its stage to audience-less concerts.

“In true Saratoga community spirit, we’re fortunate to be able to partner with Saratoga’s beloved Caffé Lena to bring live performances via the Caffé’s Stay ‘Home Sessions’ platform,'” says Sobol. The full lineup for the online festival experience will be announced in the near future.

In addition to cohosting the virtual Jazz Fest, SPAC unveiled a creative way for current ticket-holders to give back to the local community in a meaningful way. For ticket-holders who choose to convert all or at least $25 of their ticket purchases into a tax-deductible donation, SPAC will donate that money to fund 2021 season tickets for regional first responders and medical workers. For more information, visit spac.org.

Jeff Dingler

Jeff Dingler is saratoga living's Senior Writer. He's a graduate of Skidmore College and a professional musician.


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