Savannah Music Festival (Savannah, GA)


  Older African American man holding a trombone talking to students seated with their instruments

Georgia NEA Jazz Master Slide Hampton works with high school jazz students from across Georgia in an annual jazz band workshop at the 2006 Savannah Music Festival. Photo by Ayano Hisa

Known for its diversity as well as the excellence of its musicians, the Savannah Music Festival (SMF) hosts renowned jazz, blues, bluegrass, classical, and international artists over a 17-day period each spring in historic downtown Savannah. Founded in 1980, SMF is Georgia’s largest music festival, highlighting not only world-class musicians, but also integrating the event into the community as the festival takes place throughout the entire historic district, including theaters, houses of worship, and art museums. Education is an integral part of the festival, with 10,000 free tickets provided for students and educational materials supplied to teachers in anticipation of the concerts.

In FY 2006, SMF received an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $10,000 for their 2006 festival, which featured 500 classical, jazz, blues, bluegrass, gospel, zydeco, and world musicians, including NEA Jazz Masters Paquito D’Rivera, Jim Hall, Slide Hampton, Roy Haynes, and Ahmad Jamal. Between March 17 and April 2, 2006, approximately 48,000 people attended the festival, an increase of 33 percent over the previous year. In addition to 59 ticketed events, SMF also featured free midday concerts, youth education programs, artist workshops, a three-day gospel workshop, and a two-day high school jazz band workshop.

One of the primary goals of the festival is to provide the opportunity for musicians to collaborate and blend genres to make unique festival performances. For 2006, examples of this included four string musicians combining elements of bluegrass, folk, and jazz music, and Hamilton de Holanda, an instrumentalist from Brazil, collaborating with mandolinist Mike Marshall to blend bluegrass, classical, world, and swing music.

(From the NEA 2006 Annual Report