The timing couldn’t have been better. The very week that Las Cruces Museums and friends were about to host their inaugural Juneteenth Jazz Festival, Congress declared the day a national holiday. The festival brings together speakers, local jazz bands, music and improvisation workshops, family activities, a virtual jam session, a roundtable on Black Movements, and much more, to celebrate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the 19th century. The jazz fest has been in the works for several months, so it was organized to be entirely virtual. As a result, the organizers were able also to include internationally acclaimed jazz greats Warren Wolf (performing at 6 p.m. on Saturday) and Nat Reeves (giving a keynote speech with some playing at 2 p.m.)
Jazz percussionist and teacher Derrick Lee contemplated putting a festival like this together for several years, and worked closely with film-maker, hip-hop artist and teacher Julian Alexander and Las Cruces Museum curator Kayla Myers to create a diverse program. Lee spoke to Intermezzo host Leora Zeitlin about the festival on a Zoom call.
“I’m really excited that we can bring awareness to this holiday. It’s a part of our country, it’s part of the fabric of our history, and it’s not something to be overlooked or glossed over,” Lee said. To put the holiday in context, the festival opens with an address by Dr. Bobbie Green, president of the Dona Ana County NAACP, and includes a roundtable on the history of Juneteenth and Black Movements with Roy Collins, General Counsel of NMSU, and Debra Alexander, Special Government Expert in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “All of our speakers are uniquely qualified to speak on this holiday,” Lee said.
In addition to performances by Wolf and Reeves, several local and regional jazz bands will participate in performances, workshops and an open mic jam session, including 6 x 4, New Side Effect Trio, Soledad Canyon Jazz, Spherio, El Paso Quartet, Billy Townes Jazz Group, and the Derrick Lee Quintet. Lee said his hope for the festival is “to make an oasis [for jazz] in this region.”
For the full schedule, click here: https://m.facebook.com/events/967282847356472. To access any of the event's activities and performances, click here: https://rebrand.ly/JuneteenthJazz. And to hear the entire interview with Derrick Lee, click here:
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