Jazz + Freedom Festival History and Vision

By Shannon Gunn

In 2002, I had the distinct opportunity to perform with the faculty of Michigan State University for an event called “Prayers, Peace, Protest” over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. We performed as well as “The Real Ambassador” by Dave Brubeck. This performance had a lasting impact on me, and I wanted to try to produce something similar since moving to Virginia in 2005.

I feel the need to express frustrations with our judicial system while also promoting peace through music.

Thus the idea of the Jazz and Freedom Festival was born. CapitalBop joined the cause, and suggested we donate half the door money to charity. Each year we have used the festival to raise awareness and funds for a local charity or organization helping with social justice issues.

2015: The first year we chose EmpowerDC, an organization committed to helping the DC community and was held at Union Arts

2016: Our second festival benefited Black Lives Matter DMV and was held at Union Arts

2017: The festival benefited WPFW-FM and was hosted at Tropicalia

2019: The festival benefited the Capitol Hill Jazz Foundation and took place at 1st Floor on H Street

Festival Intended Audience

This festival will appeal to jazz fans and musicians in the DC metro area. It is meant to not only bring to light how jazz musicians in the past used their platform for social justice, but also to be cathartic for those performing. 

This is not “pretty” music. The music of this festival will make people think, make them wonder, and hopefully promote social justice.

More details on the Jazz and Freedom Festival 

  • Produced CapitalBop with Shannon Gunn. In 2019 Eaton DC joined as a Co-Host
  • Panel of speakers on jazz and justice at 3:30 pm
  • Bands start at 4:30 pm
  • 2020: 100% of door proceeds benefit the cause
  • Food and drink is typically available for purchase

Ticket Sales

$20 suggested donation for the entire evening of performances. 

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