Iowa City Jazz Festival

Iowa City Jazz Festival 2014
/ Jul
Live Festival Updates:

Iowa City Jazz Festival 2014

Iowa City, Iowa, USA
University of Iowa
41.663134, -91.554869 (View Map)
3 Days (Mon, 03 Jul 2017 - Wed, 05 Jul 2017)
Ticket Price
Festival Planned

The Iowa City Jazz Festivals is one of the best free festivals in the American Heartland, also renowned to be one of the Top 10 Jazz Festivals in the county. Originally founded in 1991 and supported by Iowa City and Iowa City University, this fest has grown over the years and now attracts an audience of over 50,000.

In keeping with previous years, the 2014 jazz festival will be hosted in and around The Pentacrest at the University of Iowa. It’s a great festival to come and see some of the best international jazz acts currently on the circuit whilst also providing ample stage time for newer upcoming acts.

For those looking to ‘hone’ their musical talents, you’ll be pleased to hear that the 2014 event will also feature a number of jazz educational programmes as part of it’s ‘Keyhole program’. Workshops are free to attend and the calibre of instructors is extremely high. Educators include: T.S. Monk, Ron Carter, Jr., Ed Wilkerson, Kenny Werner, Curtis Fuller, Paul McKee, Geri Allen, Dick Oatts and David Berkman. Young and old alike are welcome to join in on the action.


Video Highlights of the 2013 Iowa City Jazz Festival

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Mc Bride Performance - 1991

Mc Bride Performance – 1991

The first Iowa City Jazz Festival was in 1991 but was actually called “The Washington Street Jazz Festival” due to it’s obvious location, it wasn’t until the 2nd year when organizers of the event changed the name of the festival to Iowa City Jazz Festival which it has kept to this date.

The summer season in Iowa City was generally quite quiet, this was one of the main reasons the Jazz Festival began, to add a little more ‘spice’ to the city during this time.

The ICJF also used to be only a 1 day festival in it’s early years and was always hosted on July 4th, during these years the attendance was small (around 4,000 – 5,000). Due to increasing popularity, in 1995 the festival decided to host concerts and events on the evening of the 3rd.

Over the years the jazz festival has made a huge economic and cultural contribution to Iowa City and since 1991 it has bought over 250,000 jazz fans to the down town area which has contributed some $7,000,000 to the local economy.

A little more history of the festival at Daily
2013 ICJF Summary and Artist Info @ the Jazz Police
Iowa City 2004 Jazz Festival Review

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Lineup & Schedule

The 2014 Iowa City Jazz Festival lineup is shown below.

Check back regularly for further updates…
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what do you think of this years lineup?

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Performer Bios can be found here.

2013 Iowa City jazz festival lineup & Schedule

Friday, July 5
4:00 PM – 8:30 PM FUN Zone Open
4:00 PM – 10:30 PM Culinary Row Open
4:00 PM – 11:00 PM Beverage Garden
9:45 PM Fireworks

Main Stage
4:30 PM United Jazz Ensemble
6:00 PM Laranja
8:00 PM Sachal Vasandani & the Iowa Jazz Orchestra

Saturday, July 6
11:00 AM – 10:30 PM Culinary Row
12:00 PM – 8:30 PM FUN Zone
1:00 PM – 11:00 PM Beverage Garden

Main Stage
2:00 PM North Corridor Jazz All Stars
4:00 PM Charlie Hunter & Scott Amendola Duo
6:00 PM Christian Scott Quintet
8:00 PM Dr. Lonnie Smith

Sunday, July 7
11:00 AM – 10:00 PM Culinary Row
12:00 PM – 8:30 PM FUN Zone
1:00 PM – 11:00 PM Beverage Garden

Main Stage
2:00 PM Philip Dizack Quartet
4:00 PM JD Allen Trio
6:00 PM Fred Hersch Trio
8:00 PM Pharoah Sanders

2012 festival lineup
  • Mumbo Jumbo: A Tribute to Paul Motian featuring Matt Wilson, Chris Cheek, Mar Maneri, Steve Cardenas and Thomas Morgan
  • Cyrille Aimee and the Surreal Band
  • Heath Brothers Quartet
  • Marco Benevento Trio
  • Todd Sickafoose Tiny Resistors
  • Al Naylor Group
  • Kevin Mahogany & the Iowa Jazz Orchestra
  • North Corridor Jazz All Stars
  • Ariel Pocock Trio
  • United Jazz Ensemble
  • Groove Theory


The Iowa City Jazz Festival is a completely FREE event. No tickets are sold, the event is sponsored by the City of Iowa and the University of Iowa.


University of Iowa, the Pentacrest

The Pentacrest

The main 2014 Iowa City Jazz Festival venue will be the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa just in front of the Old Capitol. You’ll be able to find other live music performances in and around downtown Iowa City and side stages, “Culinary Row” and the “FUN Zone” on Clinton St. and Iowa Avenue (opposite to the Pentacrest).

Flights & Transportation

Des Moines International Airport Terminal Map

Des Moines International Airport Terminal Map

The closest international airport to University of Iowa is the Des Moines International Airport (DSM). Distance from airport to university is approximately 120 miles (193 km), travel time in taxi or car: 2 hours .

Currently 7 airlines operate from Des Moines International Airport.

To get the best flight deals I would use SkyScanner‘s official search widget below.

Transport options to and from Des Moins Airport.

Hotels & Accommodation

HotelVetro, Iowa

HotelVetro, Iowa

The cheapest hotel and accommodation options I could find in and around Iowa City during the Iowa City Jazz Fest (early July) are shown below (Click HERE for a complete list).

Check out the nicest hotel in Iowa City >>

*** Hotel prices rise exponentially as you get closer to the festival dates. Book early to avoid disappointment. ***

Hotels Combined

I would recommend checking Iowa City hotel reviews on TripAdvisor prior to placing any booking. Alternatively, why don’t you try something different and rent someones apartment during the festival period at AirBnB?! Click here for a free £15 credit towards your first booking!

Note that there is NO TENT CAMPING at the 2014 Iowa Jazz Festival. However, if you really did want to camp, either in a tent or your RV/Motorhome, then you can check out the nearby facilities at Sleepy Hollow RV Park and Campgrounds.


Don Thompson

Don Thompson

Recently Festival Archive was lucky enough to interview Donald Thompson, chair of the jazz fest committee. We asked him a few questions about this years festival, hear what he had to say below.

The Iowa City Jazz Festival is now in its 24rd year which is a brilliant achievement and one you must be proud of. Can you tell us how long you have been working with the festival and give a little history as to how you made your way into your current position?

I’ve been involved with the jazz festival since the fall of 2004. I was one of the original board members when the jazz festival decided to form a board of directors. In the fall of 2005, we agreed to merge the jazz festival with the Iowa Arts Festival and the Friday Night Concert Series. Summer of the Arts, Inc. was created and I was one of the founding board members and served on the board for 6 years, including a term as chair of that board. After my second board term ended, I became a member of the jazz festival committee of Summer of the Arts, Inc. (SoTA), and I have served as chair of the committee since 2012. I organized and chair the committee that chooses the artists for the festival, and I just completed booking the festival for the second year.

Many people would think that planning a festival would be an ideal job but I can imagine that it must be fraught with stresses and complications. During your role within the festival what do you find to be the most challenging aspects of your job?

When I’m not serving in my various roles with the festival and my role as chair of Orchestra Iowa’s board of directors, I practice law. I view my volunteer work as a way to escape the stress and complications of my law practice. I don’t view the work I do for the jazz festival to be that challenging. The only stress involves waiting to hear back from agents and managers when I’m trying to put the puzzle together after the committee has identified the musicians and groups we’re most interested in.

The lineup for the Iowa City Jazz Festival has not yet been officially released, are you able to give us any clues or hints as to who we might be able to expect in 2014?

I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until our official announcement of the lineup. We’re very excited about the lineup and we are confident the jazz world wills share our excitement.

See rest of interview...

It’s always been a great mystery to me as to how the festival handles act selection. Are there specific criteria that artists have to meet? Are acts selected purely on talent and performance alone or do your gut instincts and emotions come into play when making decisions? Also, who has the final say as to who performs (if there is just one artistic visionary?!)?

It’s no mystery. We have a very active and knowledgeable group of people involved in the selection process. Our committee includes the manager of one of the few remaining full-time jazz radio stations the country, a terrific jazz musician who travels to the major jazz venues to listen to other artists frequently, a former record store owner and radio station host who has an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz and jazz artists, and a fellow who I consider to be a Renaissance man who brings an appreciation to a broader spectrum of jazz than others on the committee. We all listen to a lot of recorded music, travel to see artists perform, and think about possible artists all year long. We focus on bringing musicians to the festival that have had long and storied careers in jazz like Pharaoh Sanders, Dr. Lonnie Smith, the Heath Brothers Quartet, Randy Weston, etc. When we consider one of these jazz giants, we make sure that they are still performing at a high level. We also try to identify new or young performers we believe are on the cusp of making a big splash. Examples are Cuong Vu, Stanton Moore, Ben Allison, Trombone Shorty, Ambrose Akinmusiree, John Ellis, Cyrille Amee, Ariel Pockock, and Philip Dizack. We also try to feature at least one local group on the main stage that has the talent to belong on the main stage. In 2013, Laranga filled that role very well.

Over the years the festival has grown from strength to strength and has now established itself as one of the great events in the international jazz festival circuit; what do you think has been the key to the festivals continued success and what are some of the major difficulties your team is faced with each year?

Our festival was founded by two people, a jazz musician and a local business man. The jazz musician handled the booking and operations and the businessman found the money to support the festival. From the first year, we’ve focused on establishing and maintaining a reputation as a “musician’s festival”. We work very hard to make the artists’ experience with our festival to be as positive and rewarding as possible. It’s paid off. Agents call us and tell us about musicians they represent who have heard about our festival from friends and they want to play at our festival. Other artists ask their agents to contact us for return engagements. I know we’re doing things right when I see musicians we’ve booked enjoying the performances of the other musicians at the festival and when they compliment us on our selection of artists.

Can you tell us a little about your favorite moments of the past 2013 Iowa City Jazz Festival?

Having lunch with Sachal Vasandani, watching him rehearse with local musicians, and then enjoying a terrific opening night performance. Enjoying the incredible interplay of ideas among the members of JD Allen’s Trio and listening to their post-performance interview. The Christian Scott Quintet performance was also a highlight for me as was his post-performance interview. As you can tell, I’m most excited about what younger musicians have to say with their music and in discussions. Sachal, JD Allen, and Christian Scott are all extremely talented, intelligent and engaging people. Jazz has a great future with musicians like this.

In addition, to hear and see Pharaoh Sanders, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Fred Hersch on a stage in Iowa City—those performances created lasting memories.

Are there any programmes/clinics, educational or otherwise, that run alongside the Iowa City Jazz Festival? If people wished to participate in any of them what is the best way for them to find out some more information?

We don’t hold many clinics, but we’ve had special programs in the past where artists have appeared a local coffee shop for question and answer sessions. Members of Mumbo Jumbo (Matt Wilson, Steve Cardenas and others) did this in 2012. Jimmy Heath did as well that year. Usually we post information about events like this on the website:

The festival has now been around for a long time and some would say that the past couple of years has been the festivals’ best years, how do you strive to make each year better than the last and where do you see the festival in 10 years?

There are a couple of reasons why the past couple of years have been so successful. SoTA has recovered from some tough financial years that began with the economic downturn. Also, we’ve had significant increases in support from our two most important supporters: the City of Iowa City and the University of Iowa. Our artistic budget has been getting back to where it was before the economic downturn. The second reason is that the music industry has changed so much in the past several years. Big recording contracts are a thing of the past. Musicians are trying to make a living by performing, not recording. Festivals pay well and are important to our artists. But, the reality is that we are paying less for more talent than we were in the past.

Organising a festival of this calibre takes incredible skill, team-work, coordination and dedication. Outside of your direct festival planning team (who seem to do an outstanding job by the way!) is there any person or groups of people you would like to especially thank for their help in making the festival a success?

Absolutely. Lisa Barnes, SoTA’s Executive Director and Shane Schemmel, the Associate Executive Director make it all happen and allow the rest of us to focus on the music and the musicians. The people who choose the artists are Craig Kessler, Dennis Green, Lynne Hart, John Kenyon and me. The jazz festival committee, whose members make sure the musicians have a positive and enjoyable experience include Amanda Lensing, Kelli Jackson, Lisa Baum and Jack Frank. We also rely on an army of volunteers and many sponsors and financial supporters, including our named sponsor, the University of Iowa Community Credit Union.

Many people say that it’s the festival’s diverse range of jazz styles and the introduction of other similar music genres that has led to the success of the festival. How do you manage to walk the fine line between keeping both the jazz purists happy with the programme lineup and audiences with lets say a more ‘general’ taste in music?

That’s a great question. I believe there are many styles of jazz and we try to bring real diversity to the stage. I don’t think we’ve booked many artists who aren’t jazz musicians. There have been a few exceptions like the Derek Trucks Band in 2007 and Lake Street Dive in 2010. Bringing Derek Trucks here was an experiment. He drew a huge crowd, but most of the added people didn’t stick around for the entire festival, so we haven’t done that again. The musicians in Lake Street Dive all studied jazz at the New England Conservatory, and one of their members is an Iowa City native. They draw a huge crowd that tends to stick around. When I look at the lineups of some of the large festivals, I scratch my head because I can’t find many jazz artists. We want to present a wide variety of musical styles, but we want it to be jazz—we’re a jazz festival!

What is the biggest marketing challenge you face when trying to spread the word about the festival? Are there any particular avenues or strategies you have focused on that have led to noticeably good results?

We have ads in major jazz publications and spread the word by tapping into lots of media outlets around the Midwest. We don’t have a large marketing budget and can’t afford to pay for marketing studies. Your guess is as good as mine. Word of mouth? Ads in DownBeat and Jazz Times? I don’t know, but people seem to find us. Last year I met a couple who drove from Texas to the festival. They assured me that they plan to return every year.

We’re a free festival located in a wonderful small city. We have one of the best locations for a jazz festival with the stage in front of the steps of the historic Old Capital on the University of Iowa campus. I think our festival is a great experience for jazz fans.

For people wishing to help out at the festival this year round can you please tell them a little about any volunteer opportunities you offer or other ways they can help?

Contact the staff at Summer of the Arts. We always need volunteers! If people don’t have time to volunteer, go to the website and donate. It takes a lot of money to support this and the other free festivals SoTA offers.

What would be your best advice for somebody visiting the festival for the very first time?

Book a hotel room in downtown Iowa City. Come a couple of days early or stay a couple of days after the festival. Iowa City will surprise you. It’s a wonderful place with great restaurants, parks, galleries, etc. Bring comfortable outdoor chairs, casual clothes and a relaxed attitude. Be prepared to see and hear an incredible lineup of artists. Take the time to seek out SoTA volunteers and tell us what you think. Come to the jam sessions after the festival each night.

Can you give an estimate for your predicted turnout/attendance rate for the 2014 Iowa City Jazz Festival?

Because we don’t sell tickets, we never have exact numbers. We typically have crowds of approximately 40,000 during the course of the festival.

And finally, who are your personal all-time favourite jazz performers?

I’ll restrict the list to performers who have been a part of our festival: Joe Lovano, Tom Harrell, Brad Mehldau, Matt Wilson, Paul Motion, Geri Allen, Ron Miles, Mingus Dynasty, Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Trombone Shorty, Randy Weston, Ambrose Akinmusiree, Cyrille Aimee, Charlie Hunter, Christian Scott and JD Allen. I know that’s a long list, but the 2014 festival will be our 24th, so I have a lot of performers to choose from.

We would like to make a special thanks to Donald and his team for taking the time out of their busy schedule to answer these questions. We wish you all the best with this upcoming festival.

Outside of the Festival

If you’re coming to Iowa City especially for the jazz festival then it would be a shame not to take a couple of days to explore what other highlights this beautiful city has to offer. I’ve compiled a short list of the best things to do in Iowa City around the time of the festival.

Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City High Res

See the Hawkeyes play at the Kinnick Stadium

Having been previously voted as the best stadium in the Big Ten by the Sporting News (’07 & ’09), the Niles Kinnick Stadium is one of the best places to see some college football. In 2007 it was given a $89 million dollar renovation and can seat over 70,000 people. View the 2014-2015 Schedule | Check out ticket prices on StubHub | Reviews of Stadium on Trip Advisor.

Pleasant Valley Golf Course

Pleasant Valley Golf Course

Have a knock around at Pleasant Valley Golf Course

The Pleasant Valley Golf Course is a private, championship standard golf course located in Chantilly. The course itself is nice to play and features lovely fairways, well maintained greens and is surrounded by hardwood trees and rolling hills. Green fees are anywhere between $49 – $98 dependent on which day/time you play. More info on the Pleasant Valley Golf Club Website | PVGC Reviews on

Museum of Natural History

Museum of Natural History

Kill some time at the Museum of Natural History

The Museum of Natural History is located on the University of Iowa Campus and although relatively small they always have good collections and displays. The animal displays are fascinating and are always enjoyed by younger children. A fantastic way to spend a couple of hours with or without the family, it’s also completely free with an optional donation box near the exit. Museum of Natural History Website | Reviews on Trip Advisor

If you require any further information on this festival or would like to leave a message for others then please use the comments section below.

NB. You also find photo gallerieslive festival newstransport information in the tabbed section below. All festival listings are changing continuously, check back regularly.

Additional Resources

Post last updated by Paul Thomson on April 30, 2014
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