Dixieland Monterey exists to facilitate the live performance and broader appreciation
of early jazz and other historically related music of the 1920s and ‘30s as part of our
American musical heritage, and to educate and encourage young people to learn, appreciate and perform this music.
History of Dixieland Monterey
Founded in 1980, Dixieland Monterey celebrates the roots of classic jazz, swing, and ragtime, and promotes the education of youth in the art of traditional jazz performance. Each year, enthusiasts from all over the United States and Canada travel to Monterey to enjoy some of the hottest traditional jazz and swing bands from the U.S. and around the world.
In 1980, Dixieland Monterey was the theme for the Monterey County Fair. The co-founders of the Monterey Bay Hot Jazz Society (now Monterey Hot Jazz Society), including Joe Ingram, Ned Brundage, and John Fanning, were approached by the county fair and, voting to take on the event, they appointed Joe Ingram as the chairman of the Dixieland festival at the 1980 County Fair. John Keller and Ed Greco, owners of a local advertising agency, were recruited to help implement the Dixieland event.
These three volunteers rounded up nine bands, four venues, and a team of Clydesdales, and parlayed them into a three-day weekend jazz extravaganza that played at Monterey’s wharf and waterfront. This first “Dixieland Monterey” mini-festival reached an audience that obviously loved the music. It was so successful that Ingram, Keller, and Greco decided to repeat the event in 1981. They assembled an all-volunteer board of directors from the local music community, mainly from the local “Do Do Wah Street Irregulars” where Keller and Greco had been playing for years. Banjo player Allen Caldeira, a civic leader with a reputation for getting things done, was elected to chair the event. Several members of the Monterey Bay Hot Jazz Society were also elected to the board, including Ina Dow, who recruited the first team of dedicated volunteers and patrons.
Thus, in March of 1982, with an $18,000 operating budget, a few devoted volunteers, and a handful of bands and waterfront venues, Dixieland Monterey presented its second festival, and with it, a standard of excellence that has continued ever since.
The combination of sizzling jazz and the cool Monterey waterfront proved to be irresistible. By the close of business on the second day of the ’82 festival, gate receipts were sufficient to cover all obligations and provide seed money for the following year’s festival.
Growth and Change
1986 was a turning point for the festival’s organization and philosophy. The operating budget had tripled and its volunteer base had grown to over 200. As the festival’s momentum grew, so did the caliber of its musicians. First-rate professional bands from all over the world were now being booked. In response to growing demand for more than strictly traditional Dixieland, the program introduced swing and ragtime to the mix, while still respecting Dixieland as the root jazz form.
That year, local dentist Dr. Jake Jacobson (of the “Do Do Wah Irregulars”) was elected board chairman and introduced the idea of inviting youth bands to participate in the festival. Eventually, youth bands became a regular part of the annual lineup. In 1991, after ten years with Dixieland Monterey and five years of faithful service as chairman, Dr. Jake passed away unexpectedly. His death served as a catalyst for two pivotal changes within the Dixieland Monterey organization:
The establishment of the Dr. Jake Jacobson Music Youth Scholarship program to receive a portion of each year’s festival proceeds for the education of youth in the art of traditional jazz performance.
The board’s determination to “…honor members of the jazz community in life rather than memorialize them in death.” This determination has been realized ever since by recognizing an outstanding musician each year during the festival weekend for his or her contribution to Dixieland and traditional jazz.
These changes in the board’s vision for the festival catalyzed explosive growth throughout the 1990s, which carried the festival vigorously into the new millennium.
Dixieland Monterey Today
In 2019, Dixieland Monterey celebrates its 39th anniversary. What began as a one-time supplement to the Monterey County Fair has evolved into an annual event with live acts in intimate venues, a talented selection of youth bands, and a program that includes big band music in addition to traditional jazz, zydeco, swing, gypsy jazz, blues, and ragtime.
Founder John Keller said, “I attribute the success of Dixieland Monterey to four main factors. First is the continuity of its all-volunteer board of directors, seventy percent of whom have served fifteen years or longer. Second is the dedication of our volunteers who return every year to help us out again and again. Third is its prime location: who can resist the beauty of the Monterey waterfront? However, the real reason people return each year is because they love the music. Dixieland Monterey offers them the opportunity to experience live jazz performed by some of the world’s most talented musicians. Essentially, Dixieland Monterey continues to thrive because it gives people what they want: “great music and great music never goes out of style.”
Dixieland Monterey owes its success to the vision and dedication of the original founding board members. The festival has evolved over the years with an incredible commitment and direction provided by the board of directors. Many of them first became associated with the festival as volunteers. All have an area of expertise, which is invaluable to the smooth running of the festival.
Looking to our Future
With vigorous financial support, including a thriving endowment and bequest response from our audience, we are becoming more involved in school music programs. By providing instruments to the schools on a continuing basis and presenting in-school programs with professional musicians we will achieve our goal of encouraging youth to continue the tradition of early jazz.
Jazz Bash by the Bay Festival Board
Allan Pedersen – Festival Executive Producer
Donelle Squires – Secretary
Jeannie Pedersen – Bookkeeper
Mary Jane Rogers