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Berklee Announces End Of Beantown Jazz Festival, Combines Forces With BAMS Fest

The crowd in 2015 at the Beantown Jazz Festival in Boston's South End. (Sean Hafferty)
The crowd in 2015 at the Beantown Jazz Festival in Boston's South End. (Sean Hafferty)

The Beantown Jazz Festival saw its last year in 2018. Instead of a festival in 2019, Berklee has opted to partner with the Boston Art and Music Soul Festival, better known as BAMS Fest, this summer, the music school announced Monday.

Since 2007, the Beantown festival has been a free, fall event that drew in thousands and featured both international jazz, Latin, blues, funk and groove acts and Berklee students. But renovations made to Carter Playground, including a football field, tennis courts and an enclosed play space —  adjacent to the festival grounds — cut Beantown's ability to program the festival the way it had since 2007.

Beantown Jazz Festival founder Darryl Settles said he is grateful to Berklee for continuing the festival as long as they did. He planned out the festival for two years before the first event in 2007. After the sixth festival, he said he gave the festival to Berklee.

“I'm sure the whole city is sad but I want to thank Berklee for carrying it on for as long as they did,” Settles said. “They did a great job for the city and they ran a fantastic festival.”

Settles said he knew there was a possibility of the festival coming to an end late last year, after the playground's renovation.  Robert Chambers, Associate Vice President at Berklee said the school did not take the decision lightly. “I know that for the institution, there was a long difficult decision that they'd made,” Chambers said. “A lot of thought and effort was put into it before they decided that we were no longer able to continue.”

Terri Lyne Carrington, Berklee professor and artistic director of the Berklee Institute for Jazz and Gender Justice, will serve as a co-curator for BAMS Fest. She was the artistic director for the Beantown Jazz Festival. Berklee officials on Monday said students will participate in BAMS Fest as well. Going from a primarily jazz festival anchored by a storied music institution to part of a community driven, new music festival will certainly prove to be a drastic change for Beantown leaders.

BAMS Fest, which takes place on Saturday, June 22 in Franklin Park, is slated to announce its lineup later this week. It's unclear how much of it, if any, has been co-curated by Carrington this year.

BAMS Fest founder Catherine Morris said in a recent interview that the partnership speaks volumes of the greater interest institutions have to be more inclusive and create a connection with all parts of the city’s arts and culture scene.

“The partnership is very, very exciting and important to us because it's saying that Berklee really is invested in ensuring that their students have an opportunity to do all the things they want to do in the city and that there are community folks who live here, work here, that are open to that and are willing to work together and partner together and grow this thing that's more community driven,” Morris said.

Last month, BAMS Fest was recognized as a Model Equity Organization by the Boston Cultural Council for its work in promoting racial and economic diversity in the arts.

Cintia Lopez Arts Fellow
Cintia Lopez was a fellow for The ARTery, WBUR's arts and culture team.

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