Jazz on the Green Revels in its Ever-Growing Popularity
By Kyle Eustice
Vice President of Programming and Education Kendra Ingram has been with Omaha Performing Arts for the past four years. One of the perks of her job is spearheading the Jazz on the Green concert series, a beloved community event that has been wildly popular since its first show at the Joslyn Art Museum in 1975. Now held at Midtown Crossing’s Turner Park, Jazz on the Green boasts national and international talent. On July 30, Nebraska Jazz Orchestra headlines the event with pre-show swing dance lessons led by an Omaha Ballroom instructor. The following Thursday, August 6, Minneapolis-based band Sonny Knight and the Lakers make an appearance while blues, soul and funk singer Mia Borders headlines the Jazz on the Green stage on August 13. Ingram took some time to answer a few questions about the concert series, including what goes into selecting the performers and some of the challenges of executing such a big event every year. Visit www.jazzonthegreenomaha.com for a full schedule and more information.
Now! Omaha (Kyle Eustice): Jazz on the Green is now an Omaha tradition. Why do you think it has grown to be so popular?
Kendra Ingram: There are several reasons for Jazz on the Green’s popularity. Audience members can always count on quality performers for this series. It’s also a great opportunity to enjoy beautiful weather and a night out with friends and family of all ages. The venue is ideal: convenient location, beautiful setting, lots of space and great options to purchase food and drinks. And admission is free!
Where did the idea for the event originate?
Jazz on the Green originated at Joslyn Art Museum. When they installed a sculpture garden in 2009, there wasn’t room at the Joslyn to host the series any longer. Omaha Performing Arts assumed responsibility for Jazz on the Green in 2010 and moved the venue to Turner Park at Midtown Crossing. Omaha Performing Arts has enjoyed a great relationship with Midtown Crossing. Turner Park is really an ideal venue space for this series.
How do you go about selecting the performers?
We aim to program a diverse selection of artists that all connect to the jazz genre. For example, we like to include artists who perform Latin jazz, zydeco style, traditional big band or blues. We like to showcase local artists as well as nationally touring talent. The one main requirement: all artists need to perform lively, upbeat music that encourages audience members to dance. Jazz on the Green audiences love to dance and this is a major component of the program.
What are some challenges you encounter putting on such a big event?
Managing an event that attracts thousands of audience members each week requires a large team of individuals. We are very fortunate to have an incredible team of volunteers Ambassadors (ushers) and staff, as well as great support from the Midtown Crossing staff and security.
I read some comments on the website that people were unhappy that many families are using the grounds to play frisbee and other activities while the show is going on. How do you address these concerns?
I haven’t received any complaints this year. There isn’t room in the main bowl for activities like that.
Is it difficult to get quality sound outdoors?
We have been fortunate to have Audio Visions, a seasoned professional A/V company provide our sound reinforcement for Jazz on the Green. As the audiences have grown, we’ve invested in more sound coverage for additional parts of the park so we can provide a top notch sound experience throughout the space.
What is the best part about being involved with Jazz on the Green?
It’s an incredible feeling to look out from the stage and see a large audience of many different ages and backgrounds, coming together to enjoy great music. Our guest performers always comment on what fun it is to perform for such an enthusiastic and supportive audience.
What’s new this year?
This year we’ve added some pre-show entertainment. For several of the shows, we’ll present student bands from Blues Ed, an education program sponsored by the Blues Society of Omaha. We’re also presenting dance lessons provided by instructors from Omaha Ballroom to teach various forms of dance, such as Latin ballroom and swing dance, before the show. We’ve received great feedback about these added features and plan to continue them next season.
What does the future look like for Jazz on the Green?
Omaha Performing Arts will continue to program top local and national talent to deliver high energy performances for Jazz on the Green.