SCHENECTADY — A yearly live-music tradition in Schenectady isn’t going anywhere this year.
It’s just moving down the street a little.
Despite live events nationwide and some in Schenectady being canceled or postponed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Jazz on Jay series kicks off next Thursday and runs through Sept. 17. The shows come with some additional guidelines and a larger location to allow for social distancing.
“Safety is always the top priority when considering any sort of performance, especially a public one,” said Salvatore Prizio, the concerts and event manager for Proctors Collaborative. “Our team has had several meetings to discuss the safest and most practical ways of presenting a public performance to the community. Additionally, we wanted to be able to once again provide performance opportunities to local musicians again.”
Over on the State Street end of Jay Street, where organizers say there’s more space to keep distance from others, Jazz on Jay aims to win over listeners with live music. During the shows, chairs will not be provided, masks are mandatory and attendees are encouraged to stay home if they, or anyone in their home, feels sick.
“It was exceptionally important for us to find a way to carry on Jazz on Jay’s presentations during COVID-19,” Prizio said. “We looked at various ways to present the series, whether virtually or in person, [and] we knew Karen Johnson who started all of this would have wanted us to move heaven and Earth to make it work, one way or another. If she’s looking down on us, she’d smile knowing that her series continued even in the toughest of times.”
Colleen Pratt, who is scheduled to perform on Aug. 27, said she hasn’t performed live since March, but has some tentative shows scheduled this summer.
“Jazz on Jay is very special to me,” Pratt said. “I am extremely proud to have opened this series several times over the years. I am eternally grateful to Karen Johnson for her dedication and love of the arts. I was born and raised in Schenectady, and it means a great deal to me to be able to perform for my hometown audience.”
While organizers and performers are excited for locals to enjoy some jazz, other events throughout the area have seen cancellations, such as Music Haven’s events in Central Park, SummerNight in Schenectady and the Freedom Park concert series in Scotia.
Jim Gilbert — publisher of Nippertown, a Capital Region arts and culture publication — said he’s seen approximately two live shows each week since the start of summer.
“Some are closed live-streams, some are patios, where they’re serving food and staying socially distant,” Gilbert said. “I’ve been really impressed with how businesses have been handling them, to be honest.”
Gilbert said local venues and organizers have found unique ways to offer shows during the pandemic, and that attendees at the shows he’s attended have been respectful.
“I think there’s hope for the music scene in respectable environments. … There’s a lot of heart there,” Gilbert said. “But I’m still scared because I’m not sure what it’s going to look like when we get out of this.”
For Jazz on Jay, this year’s lineup kicks off with the Keith Pray Ortet and wraps up in September with the Tarik Shah Trio.
“I, for one, am thrilled we can offer the arts once again to the public in a safe and responsible way,” Prizio said. “The musicians are so grateful for the opportunity to get back on stage and do what they love. For most of them this is a passion as much as an occupation so they must feel whole again knowing they can perform for an audience.”
“The jazz scene in Schenectady is so unique to Schenectady,” Gilbert said. “It’s important that it continues. It’s important that it thrives. There’s jazz in other areas, but Schenectady owns that jazz scene. It’s encouraging to know that they’re going to continue even during these times.”
The full lineup follows below:
July 9 – Keith Pray Ortet
July 16 – Trifecta
July 23 – Jeanine Ouderkirk Quartet
July 30 – The Ragtime Windjammers
Aug. 6 – Art D’echo Trio
Aug. 13 – Tyler Giroux Trio
Aug. 20 – Brad Monkell Quintet
Aug. 27 – Colleen Pratt & Friends
Sept. 3 – Bob Gluck 3 plays Pat Metheny
Sept. 10 – Tim Olsen Quintet
Sept. 17 – Tarik Shah Trio