From September 17-19, the City of Bridges will be inundated with world-renowned jazz musicians here to entrance audiences during the 11th annual Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival (PIJF).
The festival will be split between two venues: The Benedum Center and Highmark Stadium. This differs from years past, when the festival was held at The August Wilson African American Cultural Center (AWAACC), which is also the organizer of the festival. This year’s festival was curated by Janis Burley Wilson, CEO and president of the center.
According to Cydney Nunn, AWAACC senior public relations and marketing manager, the festival was moved to new venues for a variety of reasons, including the need to meet COVID precautions. The new spaces will allow for more social distancing, as well as enhanced security for guests. Attendees must wear masks regardless of vaccination status when indoors, and masks are also highly encouraged in outdoor venues as well. Other policies will be added on the PIJF website as the festival nears.
The venue is not the only thing changing for this year’s festival. The PIJF was previously free, but it has now transitioned to a ticketed event.
The festival’s headliner, Chaka Khan, will be performing at the Benedum Center, and tickets cost between $55-$110. Tickets for the musicians performing at Highmark Stadium over the two-day event will cost anywhere from $40-$140, depending on how many days guests want to attend. The transition to a paid event may seem unexpected, but it has been in the works for a while, according to Nunn.
“Charging for PIJF has always been a long-term goal; however, after the extremely tough year we had last year, it was clear that this was the best time to transition to the new ticketed format,” said Nunn.
Famous jazz musicians, such as Patrice Rushen and Gregory Porter, will perform at the event, and many of the featured artists have legendary careers with multiple Grammy nominations and wins. A number of the artists in the PIJF lineup have performed at the festival previously, including Marcus Miller, Dianne Reeves, and Jeff “Tain” Watts. Lakecia Benjamin, Jazzmeia Horn, and the Baylor Project are just a few of the newer artists coming to town who are known for creating dynamic, intriguing music.
The PIJF is also an opportunity to watch more than 140 local Pittsburgh musicians work their magic. “As a leading performance arts venue in Pittsburgh, we’re constantly scouting talent and using artists locally and globally,” said Nunn.
In years past, anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 people have attended the festival. Due to capacity restrictions of the venues, however, this year’s numbers are expected to be closer to 4,000-7,000 people.
Despite the smaller crowds, Nunn believes the energy will be the same, adding that the 2021 PIJF will be filled with people who are ready to experience live music again.
“The most exciting part for me is the evening performers. By then the crowd is at its largest and the energy is electric!” she said. “People genuinely love this festival.”
Tickets can be purchased by calling customer service at 412-456-6666 or by visiting https://pittsburghjazzfest.org.
Editor’s Note: The AWAACC is continuing to update its COVID health and safety protocols to meet state and federal mandates, so please check the website for updates before attending the festival. At press time, all attendees were required to show proof of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination at least two weeks prior to attending performances at the Benedum Center, Highmark Stadium, and AWAACC. Attendees under the age of 12 will be required to wear a mask at all times.