President’s Message


Blue Jay Jazz Festival welcomes music fans back to the mountains.
Summer 2023

Growing up in rural Indiana, one of my most fond memories was the celebrated annual Midwest State Fair. I remember those trademark barnyard smells, Dairy Mae my prize winning 4-H Club heifer, those tractor pulled wagon trains, the strains of bleating sheep, merry-go-round-calliope music, aromas drifting from mounds of deep fried Oreos, funnel cakes and iced cold lemonade.

But, what I remember most about those long hot summer days at the Fair was the thrill of live jazz under the stars. I remember live shows by Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Edwin Hawkins, Buddy Rich, Carmen McCray, Mel Tome’, Nancy Wilson and other jazz giants who passed through our town on their way to gigs in nearby Chicago’s historic Michigan Avenue and Rush Street entertainment districts.

In an era of home entertainment, rooftop bars and DJs those extraordinary State Fair concerts defined my reverence for live jazz.

For many of us, live jazz is the best way to hear jazz. The unbridled spontaneity of brilliant musicians at the very top of their game, improvising and spurring each other on to greater     creative heights… What could be better?

Chris Levister, President
Jay Jazz Foundation

Those childhood memories got me to thinking about this year’s Blue Jay Jazz Festival August 24-26 2023. The three day event is a delicious treat for those who yearn for the simpler times of hearing “jazz in the moment.”

This year’s fest offers a scintillating all-star roster of Grammy Award winning, nominated and, Jazz Artist of the Year headliners showcasing high school, college jazz musicians and vocalists plus a local favorite aptly titled the Speakeasy Band.

Plato once said, “Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” While recording and video technology enable us to enjoy our favorite artists’ music from home or on the go, there’s nothing quite like the thrill and vitality of experiencing a live concert. Enjoying live music in person, we experience its irreplaceable power to create a sense of connection and improve our mental, physical and emotional well-being.

Live music is a connector. It transcends barriers and brings people together through shared experiences in today’s increasingly disconnected world—

At more than 20 years, the Blue Jay Jazz Foundation looks great, has much to be proud of, and has an inspiring story to tell. While visiting our website we invite you to spend some time looking at our history and share stories and memories from the fans, and supporters who have helped build and shape our organization.

Our commitment to fans and enriching the lives of our children and community members is at the heart of our organization, and we will find ways to continue engagement and enrichment through world class jazz entertainment, fundraising, volunteer roles, social events, music education and scholarships.

There’s an old adage about planting trees under whose shade you don’t expect to sit. The Blue Jay Jazz Foundation has solid operating policies and procedures, is fiscally sound, and continues to make improvements that will ensure a stable future. Throughout the year ahead, the hope is to plant new shade trees – whether through live world class music events, our popular hands-on instrument ‘Petting Zoo, Instrument Lending library, live youth performances, such that mountain residents and visitors in the years ahead might benefit.

The work of the all-volunteer nonprofit Blue Jay Jazz Foundation, sponsors, donors, and fans is a true team effort, so let’s serve, support, and celebrate together – for the joy of music!

Chris Levister
Blue Jay Jazz Foundation