Jazz Port Townsend


Sara Gazarek photo by Andrew Southam

July 25-31
Fort Worden State Park
200 Battery Way, Port Townsend, WA


Another venerable Northwest jazz experience is back live—Jazz Port Townsend will offer an in-person format July 25-31 at Fort Worden State Park for the first time since 2019.

Jazz Port Townsend offers a week-long resident “Workshop” for students ranging from high school age well into adulthood, followed by weekend performances and jams involving both teachers and students that are open to the public. It’s a celebration of jazz education, the passing of knowledge and inspiration—with instruction and performances from more than two dozen accomplished jazz musicians and educators. 

Jazz Port Townsend goes back to the late 1970s, and for many years it has been led by artistic director John Clayton, a Grammy-winning bassist, composer, conductor, and jazz educator who carefully selects the faculty. “The quality of the faculty, that’s the thing we’re probably most proud of,” Jazz Port Townsend program manager Greg Miller said. “They are truly excellent both as performers and teachers. John Clayton pays a lot of attention to that.”

The participants range from professional musicians and singers to those who aspire to be serious amateurs. From as early as high school freshmen to retired adults, multiple generations come together where the age gap is an asset and not a barrier. “When we’re putting ensembles together, we don’t pay attention to age,” Miller said. “It’s been a really nice blend of older and younger people.”

Participants need some level of proficiency with instruments or voice coming in, but they don’t necessarily need prior experience with jazz. “People who are beginners on their instrument, they’re probably going to find the water a little deep,” Miller said. “But if they have some proficiency on their instrument, and they’re new to jazz, we can definitely work with that.”

The weekdays of The Workshop will offer curriculum in combo playing, vocal classes, music theory, evening jams, and more. Heading into the weekend is the “Friday Jazz Blowout,” a special session with workshop participants throughout the day that is also free for the public. On Friday and Saturday evenings, there will be sessions at local jazz clubs with participants and faculty. Anyone wishing to club-hop among those areas can purchase a wristband for $25. The program activities conclude on Saturday, taking in the excellence of the accomplished faculty with two public concerts at McCurdy Pavilion. 

The value of the week can be summed up by acclaimed singer, bassist, and recording artist, Katie Thiroux, a multiple Jazz Port Townsend workshop past participant. “The value for me as a young musician was getting to be, literally, right next to my idols and learning from them, playing with them, and asking them all the questions that I could think of!” she recalled. Thiroux later joined the organization as a faculty member, “It is truly full circle to go from being a student and then taking that knowledge to help the next generation,” she said. “It is an amazing feeling, and I know the cycle continues.”

Last year, Jazz Port Townsend was virtual-only due to COVID concerns after its cancellation in 2020. This year, the online option remains alongside the in-person one, with room and board add-ons available. For more information on costs, accommodations, and spot availability visit centrum.org/jazz-port-townsend-the-workshop.


Posted on

July 5, 2022