The Ottawa International Jazz Festival wrapped up last night, and while attendance numbers aren’t in yet, organizers said signs point to this being one of the best festivals ever.
In 2008, the festival attracted 180,000 people and an additional 72,000 on Canada Day.
This year the festival is set to break that record.
“Festival passes and student passes are up this year, and on Canada Day, we had a record attendance,” said festival spokeswoman Suzan Zilahi.
While Confederation Park was bustling on every night of the 11-day festival, attendance for the satellite venues, including the National Arts Centre, the Rideau Centre, and Library and Archives Canada, were “dramatically up,” Zilahi said. “We had great feedback for those venues.
“Musicians were impressed with the workshops we had,” she added. “And people really appreciated how we go beyond headliners. This festival has a lot of depth.”
Events included the Youth Jazz Summit, which brought young musicians aged 17-22 from across Canada to Ottawa to take workshops from professionals.
While young talent benefited from the exposure to different types of jazz and unlimited access to concerts, the festival also benefits from hosting the musicians, Zilahi said.
“It’s very important to us as a jazz festival to develop their appreciation for the genre,” she said.
As in past years, the festival — which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2010 and is Canada’s largest after Montreal’s — attracted jazz enthusiasts from across the country and the United States, Zilahi said.
Like all genres, record sales for jazz are declining, but festivals featuring the genre continue to do well, said festival spokesman James Hale.
“Festivals here always draw a crowd,” said Hale. And that reflects well on Ottawa considering that, unlike Halifax, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver, the nation’s capital doesn’t have strong jazz programs in its post-secondary institutions, he said.
“Jazz is like a big house with lots of rooms,” he said. And while listeners can go exploring or stay put, “the great thing about the festival is that we open those rooms.”