Old Town gets jazzy for annual festival
By Shauna Stocken
Turner Street in Old Town was bursting with instrumental music Friday and Saturday, Aug. 3 and 4, to celebrate two days of community togetherness and jazz music.
Thousands of guests filled the sidewalks and shops, tasted new cuisines and danced in the streets for the 24th annual JazzFest.
“It’s cultural enrichment, it’s socializing and getting to know your neighbors,” said Belinda Thurston, Old Town resident and returning JazzFest guest for many years. “To have such a range of art like jazz over several days and to be able to saturate in it is amazing.”
Thurston arrived at the festival on Saturday with her guitar, eager to attend this year’s guitar workshop hosted by musician Brian Segger inside Sir Pizza Grand Café.
“I was really excited that they were having a workshop,” Thurston said. “I’m used to JazzFest being about coming and listening so it was like, ‘Oh, I can learn something.’ and I was like, ‘OK, I want to go.’”
Thurston said that she and Segger bonded over similar musical instruments that the two play.
Aside from teaching a workshop, host of the vocal workshop Cindy Scott performed alongside Segger on the main stage, Aug. 4 from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
“I gave a brief overview on my general ideas about practicing and the ways we can construct our lives and get better as musicians,” Segger said.
When Segger isn’t traveling and touring to festivals, concerts and private house concerts, he is a full-time professor at the University of New Orleans.
“What I see that is going on here, because I’ve met some of the people that are behind the scenes … they really care,” Segger said.
“They really care to keep the music alive and to support musicians because they really know that it is an important thing in their own lives, in their own hearts and for the health of the community.”
While the festival was free, a $10 fee granted guests two-day access to the Turnaround Lounge Stage.
At the Turnaround Lounge, guests could enjoy a drink in an intimate setting while enjoying the house band.
On Saturday evening, the Tony Viviano Trio was the scheduled house band, performing four half-hour sets between 4 and 9:30 p.m.
“I’ve worked almost every moving object you can think of, from trains to ships,” Viviano said. “I’ve been all over the world on ships and cruise ships, but music is all I do now.”
While Viviano has performed at many jazz festivals throughout the years, this was his first time playing at Lansing’s JazzFest.
“It gives people a different taste of music,” Viviano said. “Jazz is such a world-wide encompassing style there are all kinds of different variances of it … The reason I think everybody enjoys it so much is that it’s spontaneous and it’s very creative.”
In attendance for one of Viviano’s performances was Dustin Phifer, on-air staff production student employee for the LCC radio station.
“I came out because, first of all, I love Jazz,” Phifer said. “I love the people that it brings out and just the environment that it creates.”
Phifer referred to JazzFest as a learning experience for his city, and said he plans to return in 2019.