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Syracuse Jazz Fest is returning this June after a five-year hiatus

Syracuse Jazz Fest announcement
John Smith
Syracuse Jazz Fest announcement

Central New York’s longest running and best attended free music festival is returning this June after a five-year hiatus. Jazz Fest Founder and Executive Producer Frank Malfitano announced today that the 36th edition will be held in downtown Syracuse for the first time in 20 years. For a while, it wasn’t clear if Jazz Fest would even make a comeback.

Malfitano has spent months cobbling together funds from city, county, and state governments, as well as corporate sponsors. At age 76, he’s glad to be able to bring it back to a wide audience.

“It’s very emotional, of course.  I feel great about it.  I’m glad I lived to see this day.  I feel blessed.   I announced the other day that we were having the press conference today.  I put it on Facebook.  So far, we’ve heard from people that are coming in from Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto.” 

Malfitano said he chose downtown in an effort to boost the area’s economy.

“I think we’ve right sized the festival for its first year back.  I think the three-night format with the first night in 22 clubs with 22 bands, bars and restaurants that have been hit hard by COVID. We wanted to make sure that the festival had an impact and did something good for our downtown businesses.” 

Amazon is the presenting sponsor of Jazz Fest, and helped Malfitano surpass the $500,000 he said he needs to put on the festival. Performers include saxophonist Boney James, soul, R&B group The Average White Band, saxophonist David Sanborn, and Grammy award winning duo Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis. Jazz fest runs on Thursday, June 23 to Saturday, June 25.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.
Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at
Matt Wrigley comes from Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, and is pursuing his Broadcast and Digital Journalism degree at Newhouse. His goal is to be a beat writer for a Philadelphia sports team or a broadcaster for NBC/NBC Sports. This semester at WAER, he's looking forward to gaining confidence with interviews and improving his news writing.