Riverview Jazz: Bringing it Home

This Friday night (Nov 4), the Riverview Jazz Organization is hosting a 1930s inspired black-tie gala to raise money for the 2017 festival, which will be held from June 3-10. (Tickets can be purchased here.)

I had the opportunity to chat with President and Co-Founder Bryan Beninghove about the upcoming festival, how it began, and how you can help.

Each year the Riverview Jazz Festival has grown. Can you tell me about the origins and the growth?

The Riverview Jazz Festival started in 2013 when my neighbor Will Tatz got a few bands to play in Riverview Fisk Park. I ended up doing sound & playing with all the bands. Afterwards we saw the potential and ran with it. We became a non-profit and grew modestly over the next two years. 2016 was really the year of major growth as we hosted over 40 events throughout the county and expanded into a week-long festival. The addition of Margo Parks to our organization, the cooperation of Jersey City, Hudson County, local businesses, and many other neighborhood organizations propelled us to more than quadrupling the budget and scope of the previous year.

It was awesome. Everyone knows that Jersey City loves a party, and this past summer’s JazzFest was one of the best. What’s the plan for next summer?

Last year was great fun! At our flagship event we had two stages, 8 bands, many food trucks, a flea market, and lots of beer! It was great. This year we are looking to increase our budget, which will help with artist fees, stage, and sound. We are looking to curate our week-long events to a greater extent, have an expansion of free concerts in the parks, and book some world-class talent. Stay tuned!

What was your path to jazz? Why do you love it?

I am actually a musician myself (saxophone, piano, melodica) and I love playing jazz, as well as anything else you’d like to play. There are so many incredible world-class musicians living locally in Jersey City and Hudson County that never get a chance to play for their own community for various reasons. We at RJO provide a hip setting to showcase these musicians to the neighborhood for free. It’s a really cool thing.

How much money do you need for JazzFest? Does the RNA foot the bill?

The RNA and RJO are actually two separate organizations. RNA has been a great supporter and last year they sponsored the talent at the Holland St. stage. (They also cleaned the hell out of that street and it’s now a great venue.) At RJO, we raise all the money through fundraisers, corporate sponsorship, partnerships, donations, local business sponsorship, ad sales, and all kinds of things. Last year we raised over $40k and we’d like to increase that amount by at least 50% for 2017. Help support y’all!

How can we pitch in?

Come to our Fall Gala Fundraiser this Friday November 4 at the Statuary! It will be a 1930s inspired black tie event with a martini bar, silent auction, music by the incredible pianist Spike Wilner (owner of Smalls), and more! For ticket info go to www.riverviewjazz.org.

*Cover photo was taken by Alexis Rotter during the 2016 Festival. Follow Alexis on Instagram.*

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Mel Kozakiewicz a professor, editor, writer, and mother of two.

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