Local musicians are taking their show on the digital road—and that’s good news for students looking to jazz up their weekends. Thanks to a creative new partnership with CNY Jazz Central, Syracuse University is offering a free virtual concert series featuring new and established acts.
The series, “Live From Jazz Central,” is co-sponsored by the University’s Division of Enrollment and the Student Experience and Office of Community Engagement . Students, faculty, staff and alumni may access the series via the University’s online events calendar , where each show can be streamed in real time or enjoyed the following week.
“Live From Jazz Central” is a nod to the regional arts organization that has transformed itself into a virtual concert venue in the wake of COVID-19. “Don’t let the ‘jazz’ moniker fool you,” says Jazz Central founder and executive director Larry Luttinger ’79, G’81. “This series celebrates all kinds of music, including R&B, funk, reggae, country, folk and hip-hop and spoken word.”
Already the Friday night series has streamed shows by Sophistafunk and Mark Nanni & the Intention, filmed in Jazz Central’s headquarters on East Washington Street in downtown Syracuse. Upcoming performances are as follows:
- Akuma Roots (Nov. 6), whose music draws on reggae, Afrobeat and Jamaican dancehall.
- Count Blastula (Nov. 13), known for its eclectic, Phish-inspired jams.
- Chuck Schiele's Quatro (Nov. 20), a self-styled Alt-Americana combo.
All shows begin at 8 p.m. (ET) and last two to three hours.
Meredith Davis, associate vice president of student engagement, says the concerts are music to her ears. “They reflect our larger commitment to helping students adjust to new remote experiences while ensuring their safety and wellness.”
Virtual listening parties are one indicator of the series’ success. “They are a great way to bond with other people on campus, and they are cheaper—and safer—than going out,” observes one student. “I also like the fact that we’re supporting local musicians.”
Luttinger agrees, saying music meets individual and group needs. “We’re thrilled to provide an in-place alternative to live club-going. There’s plenty of great music to be found regionally, and these artists are eager to share their gifts,” he says.
Cydney Johnson ’77, G’96, vice president for community engagement and government relations, echoes the importance of connecting with community programs and organizations in a virtual environment. “This initiative and others like it play a critical role in the cultural, social and educational fabric of our community. Partnering with CNY Jazz to bring this series to Syracuse University not only advances the region’s vibrant and rich artistic heritage, but also gives viewers access to musicians and performers in a new way.”
Drawing on its proximity to campus and newly renovated facility, Jazz Central has become a curator of online cultural content. “Artists of all genres are flocking here because they need a virtual platform to deliver their music,” Luttinger says. “Shows and promotions of all kinds are being live-streamed or pre-recorded for later release.” He is particularly proud of Jazz Central’s new 4K multicamera system, which quadruples the resolution of full high definition.
Virtual listening parties are a great way to bond with other people on campus, and they are cheaper—and safer—than going out.
Luttinger also goes to great lengths to ensure the health and safety of his patrons. Audiences are not permitted to enter the facility, and performers, who undergo multiple temperature checks, are required to practice social distancing, as evidenced by clear plexiglass barriers onstage. “We even have MERV 11 filters, which trap about 95% of pollutants from the air,” he notes.
“We’re committed to upholding student safety and the University’s quality-of-life strategy,” Luttinger concludes. “Music feeds our heart and souls, and it’s needed more than ever these days.”