Under the direction of former East Lansing Arts Commission Co-Chair Al Cafagna, the Arts Commission presented the first Summer Solstice Jazz Festival. The first festival was scheduled at “The Rock” on MSU’s campus but was moved to Erickson Hall due to inclement weather. Influenced by summer solstice celebrations in Europe, the festival went all night - starting at 9 p.m. and lasting until dawn.
After a few years on MSU’s Campus, the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival was moved to downtown East Lansing. The heart of the city became the festival’s new home to attract more people into the business district. The festival grew in size and popularity in downtown East Lansing. Attendance at the event skyrocketed, growing from 800 to 8,000.
The City of East Lansing, Wharton Center for Performing Arts and the MSU College of Music formed a partnership to plan, market and produce the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival. Rodney Whitaker became the festival’s artistic director.
The festival was reorganized to include an advisory board. The board’s role is to raise funds to produce the event, volunteer at the festival and support overall festival production.
With the assistance of Michigan State University, the festival strengthened its commitment to music education with the addition of the MSU Outreach & Engagement Education Stage.
The Summer Solstice Jazz Festival celebrated 20 years of the best in music, with a Kozmic Picnik expansion, the first Grammy-winning performer, and the first international jazz artist.
The festival moved to the Bailey Parking lot at 139 Bailey Street.
The festival was presented virtually in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The festival returned to downtown East Lansing, located on Albert Ave. between Abbot Rd. and M.A.C. Ave.