Jazz Brings Change — Especially During Lockdowns

Numerous restrictive epidemiological measures made Roma Jazz Festival go through turbulent transformations. But the event reaffirmed how much Italians care for art and how resilient are its cultural workers.

Numerous restrictive epidemiological measures made Roma Jazz Festival go through turbulent transformations. But the festival reaffirmed how much Italians care for art and how resilient are its cultural workers.

The slogan of this year‘s Roma Jazz Festival was ‘Jazz for Change’. Ironically, ever since the program announcement about a month and a half ago until the finishing concert held last Friday — the governmental decrees for the containment of COVD-19 caused a roller-coaster of change — both for festival’s organizers and for the audience.

In October, I was beyond excited to learn that British jazz-funk band The Comet is Coming is going to play in Rome’s Auditorium Parco della Musica. I was very much looking forward to the concerts of American drummer Famodou don Moye and Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca as well. The COVID-19 restrictions made Rome’s summer concert season pretty sad and it seemed that the autumn will be much sunnier with the awesome-looking line up of Roma Jazz Festival.

But quickly after the excitement of purchasing the tickets, the stress caused by constantly unfolding decrees started kicking in. First there was a midnight curfew — how can I attend concerts that were supposed to start at 9 pm and be home before 12? Then The Comet is Coming concert got cancelled — will I be able to reimburse the money? Finally, the governments banned all concerts — will the whole festival be called off? One after another, new rules made the festival look like a faraway dream.

The team of Roma Jazz Festival, however, did all it could to hold it together and bring great jazz to Rome’s jazz fans, even in such disadvantageous circumstances. When the governments had announced the introduction of the midnight curfew, the organizers promptly reacted and decided the concerts would start at 8 pm instead of 9 pm. When the new measures had made it almost impossible to hold the festival, they had chosen to do it online.

Roma Jazz Festival 2020
Musician Mino Cinelu and his virtual audience together in Auditorium. Photo source: Roma Jazz Festival Facebook page

Unlike other jazz festivals that have been taking place on internet last week (such as London Jazz Festival and Sarajevo Jazz Festival), Roma Jazz Festival hadn’t given up on the idea to bring artists to Rome, and to Auditorium. A much more expensive but more authentic concept.

The dates of some concerts had to be changed; some performances had to be cancelled. For those who wanted to reimburse the tickets, they made the process smooth and easy.

In November, I ended up watching several performances through the LiveNow streaming platform. None of my top three choices could perform due to increasingly complicated travel procedures. I have been sitting in my couch, petting my cat in my lap and watching a concert that was being streamed live from an empty hall in Auditorium, a location only about 8 kilometers far from my home. The beginning of the curfew was, in the meantime, moved to 10 pm, with Rome starting to look like a ghost city already after 6, when bars and restaurants have to close down.

My ‘attendance’ of this year’s Roma Jazz Festival was indeed very far from how I imagined it to be just a month ago.

But I began to think less about my own experience, and start imagining how many stressful moments the new regulations must have created for the organizers of the festival. How much financial loss after each cancelled show? How many tears after each concert with empty seats? And how determined Italian cultural workers are to fight for culture, even if their jobs (and probably lives) are falling apart.

And then I realized that there could be no better slogan for this year’s edition than ‘Jazz for Change’ is. And that it’s all about the change — of perspective.

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