What is the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival?

For twenty years the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival (SSJF) has offered a free, multiple-stage, live outdoor music event for residents and visitors of Greater Lansing. The SSJF is a celebration of jazz music, one of the truly original American art forms, that includes performances by nationally recognized and regional performers, as well as youth and community education.

The festival’s 2016 musical line-up was its most-impressive to date. Among the performers on the roster were a Grammy Award- winner, a world-famous touring Big Band, and the SSJF’s first international musical group. The list of 2016 performers included; Ben Williams and Sound Effect, Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Universal Indians w/ Joe McPhee, Karrin Allyson and Bobby Murray.

Last year’s event received many positive reviews by local media. Lawrence Cosentino, staff writer for Lansing City Pulse, wrote, “The music was so diverse – from big-band Frank Sinatra swagger to the quantum displacements of free jazz icon Ornette Coleman – you’d think it would be impossible to sum it all up, Not so. It was a gift, pure and simple”. 

Another impressive line-up is planned for the 21st annual festival, which will include performances by; NEA Jazz Masters Dr. Lonnie Smith & Lou Donaldson, Elden Kelly,  Western Jazz Quartet, Miles Mosely, Dafnis Prieto, Grupo Aye,  Maureen Choi Group, Phil Denny,  Laura Rain & The Caesers, Arlene McDaniel, Planet D Nonet, North Star Jazz, Rodney Whitaker Quintet, Orquesta Ritmo, MSU Jazz Studies Big Band Symposium, 496 West, Gabriel Brass Band, Twyla Birdsong, and Roger Jones & Higher Calling.

With the assistance of Michigan State University, the SSJF continues to strengthen its commitment to music education with the musicians featured on the "MSU Outreach and Engagement Education Stage." This performance area gives local high school and young up-and-coming jazz musicians an opportunity to perform on stage at a major jazz festival. This year’s performers will include; The MSU Jazz Studies Big Band Symposium (a residential jazz camp for middle and high schoolers), JAMM (Jazz Association of Mid-Michigan) Scholarship Quartet, East Lansing High School Jazz Band Combo and the MSU Student Groups; Quintet Ruby, Markus Howell Trio and Zack Adelman Quartet.