For the second year in a row, John Maestri and Kenny Darby are heading up the Frederick Jazz Festival. Set for Saturday afternoon at the Carroll Creek Amphitheater, the event will feature the Eric Byrd Trio, Darryl Brenzel and headliner Carolyn Malachi. We caught up with Maestri and Darby to talk about what they learned from last year, what to expect this year, and whom we should check out, if only had time for one of this year’s artists.
What was the biggest lesson you learned from the first Frederick Jazz Festival in 2017?
John Maestri: The biggest lesson learned was that attendees wanted beer, not just wine. So this year, we hooked up with Rockwell Brewery, a local craft beer company. Those guys are awesome and will provide a variety of their summer brews on tap this year. Linagnore Winecellars will be on site again, too. Last year, we asked ourselves, ‘OK, so what do we need to pull off a music festival?’ Along the way, we learned who, what, when, where and how much. Good life lessons in general.
Kenny Darby: The biggest lesson learned for me was attention to detail and understanding our audience and how we can implement our mission with the community to whom we are presenting a music festival.
How did you go about picking and then booking the artists for this year’s festival?
John Maestri: We have a proprietary computer software program that objectively rates an artist’s talent and value. Just kidding. We take a hard look and listen to artists from all over the DMV and negotiate with their management. We work with musicians from different jazz traditions — not just who perform bebop or ‘90s smooth jazz or neo-soul jazz — to create a lineup that has something for everyone. That’s what our audience expects and what keeps us motivated to put on the best event we can. We’re serious about booking serious talent.
Kenny Darby: We try to look at the jazz genre as a whole and not just one dimension. The one thing that we understand is that music is universal and that jazz is an awesome representative of that, as John mentioned in his answer. As far as the lineup, we wanted to stick to the same formula we had last year.
What’s the biggest change for this year’s event, compared with last year’s?
John Maestri: Many new attendees and interest from the community this year! We’re much larger in terms of ticket sales and vendor and sponsor participation. That’s a great thing for Frederick and the musicians.
Kenny Darby: The buzz is bigger this year then last year and we implemented more vendors than last year.
What is your long-term plan for the festival? Are there certain goals you have to meet this year in order to try it again for a third year?
John Maestri: Our long-term plan is to continue booking the best artists we can. And we’re always working toward goals for increased marketing and advertising. That’s the tough part and it’s costly.
Kenny Darby: Well, we want to improve every year and get better. We look to find the good and bad in every year and learn from it so that the next year we’ll be bigger and better.
And finally, if someone can check out only one artist this year, whom should they check out and why?
John Maestri: If you only have time to see one artist at the festival this year, I suggest seeing the Eric Byrd Trio. They’re sure to bring a set list that touches on gospel, standards and a few of their own unique compositions. They’re also local, but they performed with some of the greats like Wynton Marsalis. We’ll see, but they may end up bringing us to church!
Kenny Darby: Oh, wow, if someone can only check out one artist this year. Well, I would have to say it would be everyone. You want to stay for the whole thing so you won’t be disappointed.