San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

International Jazz Festival Starts Sunday

This weekend marks the start of the International Jazz Festival, a three week-long slate of concerts featuring jazz musicians from around the world. This is the first festival of its kind in Costa Rica, and organizers are touting it as an important cultural opportunity for the country.

The festival promises to put Costa Rica “on the international map for jazz festivals,” according to Manuel Arce, cultural director of the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center (CCCN), the organization that created the festival. It starts this Sunday and runs until Aug. 12, with concerts taking place at various venues around San José and the country.

Artists from Guatemala, Israel, Puerto Rico and various regions of the United States are lined up to perform. Groups from the United States include performers from the Juilliard School of Music in New York, the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and Sisters in Jazz Collegiate All Stars, a grouping of some of the best young female jazz artists in that country. Costa Rican jazz ensembles are also set to play.

The festival is part of a continuing effort by the CCCN to bring aspiring jazz artists to the country through the Promising Artists of the 21st Century program, which brings in young musicians from around the world to practice their craft. This year, all of the program’s participants are concentrated into the International Jazz Festival.

Karl Schmack, executive director of the CCCN, says he thinks the festival will serve Costa Rica at home and abroad. Not only will it give Costa Rica more exposure to the world of jazz, but also the artists who come here for the festival will take a part of the country’s culture home with them.

“Jazz is a language everyone can speak,” Schmack said.

Arce said organizers want the festival to be accessible to locals and foreigners of any background, so admission prices to the concerts have been kept low; proceeds will go only toward the cost of organizing the festival, not for additional profit.

General admission is ¢5,000 (about $10) and admission for students and senior citizens (65 and older) is ¢3,000 ($6). “Amigos del Jazz” entrance packets – including admission to 10 concerts and two jam sessions, where the musicians will improvise a  musical set on stage – cost ¢40,000 ($80) and ¢25,000 ($50), respectively.

Free conferences on jazz will also be held in the Mark Twain Library at the cultural center’s headquarters in the eastern San José neighborhood of Barrio Dent. Doris Carrol, a professor from KansasStateUniversity, will make a presentation entitled “Women in Jazz, Career Barrier to Success” July 25 at 4:30 p.m.; Professor Kevin McCluskey will speak on the Berklee College of Music’s jazz studies July 31 at 6 p.m.; and David Schroeder, director of jazz studies at New York University, will speak on NYU jazz studies Aug. 7 at 6 p.m.

Many of the concerts will take place in the cultural center’s Eugene O’Neill Theater in Barrio Dent, but performances can also be seen around the country at venues such as Hotel Villa del Sueño at Playa Hermosa, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, and Hotel Bambú, in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, in north-central Costa Rica. For a full list of venues and concert schedules, see the Calendar pages.

Arce says he hopes this is the first of many festivals to come. To buy tickets or learn more about the festival, call the CCCN at 207-7500 or e-mail the cultural department at


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