Marc Iacona and John Nugent, Producers of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival
The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival has grown from its start in 2002 — a three-day event that drew 15,000 people. Fifteen years later, we now present nine days of jazz that attracts almost 200,000 people to Rochester, New York.
We’re often asked how we built and sustained what has grown to become one of the leading jazz festivals in the world.
When you make the artistic side work, the business side works too. There’s no one way to do it, but what we have put together works, and people want to come.
Great work, hard work: From the beginning, our goal has been to consistently be the best at what we do. We work hard to be relevant and provide a consistent professional artistic product that enhances the quality of life with in our community.
Art and value: Some of the elements that have been key to our success are the combination of styles and genres that go into the artistic product: The diversity, the international element, combining past elements with new elements and determining what music works for which venue. We are the only jazz festival in the country that focuses on British, Scandinavian and Canadian artists. And our Club Pass enables people to sample a lot of music for a low price.
Feature our community: We are fortunate to produce the festival in a great city. This location, with the serendipity of the venues, people walking from street to street, taking the shuttle, stopping for traffic, makes the festival work.
We create a focus on Rochester for nine days that elevates Rochester in the community, in New York state and throughout the country. As a result, the festival has become a leading contributor to the visibility that Rochester gets.
More venues: Our growth has evolved through the addition of more venues, higher attendance and an increase in sponsor support, which has enabled us to add new stages, and attract bigger name artists, which in turn draw bigger crowds.
Loyal sponsors: Running a multi-venue, multi-day, multi-genre festival, simply could not be done without our sponsors and their staying power and loyalty.
We have built a top-ranked and rated event that companies and organizations want to associate with and sponsor. They do it for community support, brand opportunities, customer development, as well as quality of life for employees and the community. Their support and association with the festival over a long period of time has been important to the event’s stability.
Our association with Xerox, has helped propel us to a different level of programming and the experience that festival-goers enjoy. Xerox activates its sponsorship with relevant and innovative technologies in addition to business services.
Easy access: Rochester’s footprint is another contributor to our success. The beauty of our city is its accessibility. People can get to and from multiple venues easily.
Strong relationships: From the beginning, we forged a strong relationship with the renowned Eastman School of Music, which is at the epicenter of the festival, and has multiple venues in close proximity to each other.
Although we are in business, making a positive difference artistically and educationally is important, and has also been a factor in our success. We want to help sustain this art form of jazz, which has influenced the rest of the world. Our commitment to youth, and scholarships to Eastman School, help educate and inspire the next generation. In addition, we feature young musicians from the region in the festival, which may give them a spark and purpose that might turn into a career. That pays it forward.
Keep promises: We continue to strive for consistency of the product, delivering on what we promise, being as good or better, looking for satisfied patrons, and wanting people to feel good about their investment. An example of that confidence is that thousands of people buy club passes before our lineup is announced, because they trust us to deliver a great festival.
Festivals often have a lot of turnover, but ours is very stable.
One of the reasons is that we care for those we work with: the artists, and those to whom we outsource services.
Passion and vision make a difference
Our vision is to continue to be a vital part of the community and align ourselves with those who share our passion. The arts play a vital role in all parts of our economy, and our health. We see it in the faces of people enjoying the festival.
It’s not out of reach for any individual to make a positive difference in our personal lives, business lives and community. It comes down to having a passion, and having a vision. Once you identify that, then make a decision that you’re going to do it no matter what.
When you have that attitude, you know you will have roadblocks, but you have made the commitment. And that’s what drives us.