Summer concerts inspire local community

Three people perform in a jazz comb outside a garage. All are wearing masks and standing at a distance. There is a percussionist, bass player and guitarist

As summer concerts ground to a halt, jazz students found a new venue for their talents: the front porches and garages in the Fan neighborhood, just steps away from campus.

“By late April, I wondered if some performances outside might be possible, but had no time to pursue the option, as we were shoulder-deep in emergency remote teaching at VCU,” says Antonio García, professor of music and director of the Jazz Studies program. “When area residents approached me with the invitation, it was a glorious moment.”

The weekly concerts by small jazz combos gave students in the Department of Music an opportunity to continue honing their performance and collaboration experience. The series was also a chance to make up for lost income, since many students rely on paid gigs and jobs in the hospitality industry.

“For musicians, the loss was, and is, immense,” García says. “For jazz musicians, the loss is greater because we rely on interaction of spontaneous musical ideas on stage in order to create.”

But students weren’t the only beneficiaries. Neighbors appreciated the chance to leave their homes and enjoy music in the socially distant company of friends.

Jane Carlson, a Fan resident and long-time supporter of Jazz Studies, says she and her neighbors are fortunate to have VCUarts—and the school’s talented students—within walking distance.

“During Covid, I can’t tell you the difference it made,” she says, “when people brought their beach chairs out and sat on the sidewalks, and applauded. It was heartwarming.”

Carlson recently included the Jazz Studies program in her estate plans. She hopes the increased visibility of the concert series inspires others to find their own ways to discover and support arts students.

“There are many people in the Richmond area, and in the Fan, who don’t know about all the wonderful programs that the School of the Arts offers that are open to the public,” she says. “Bring jazz—which is an easily transportable music and widely enjoyable—to the street and into the Fan will hopefully raise that awareness and connection.”

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