Since its inception in 2001, the annual events comprising America’s Music Festival Series (AMFS) – Americana Roots Ramble in April, State Street Blues Stroll in June, and Jazz By Night Celebration in November – have become integral parts of Media’s cultural fabric and branding. The Series is approaching its 13th Jazz by Night on November 21, the 41st event in the Series.
The Blues Stroll gave our Series its start. In 2000, Lawrence Houstoun of the Atlantic Group and Jeremy Alvarez authored a revitalization plan for Media’s downtown. The cornerstone of their recommendations was an effort to bring more quality restaurants to town to attract new visitors. The second part of this grand formula was to develop a strong local arts scene to further increase Media’s visitor base.
In early 2001 Borough Council Members Gail Whitaker and Joan Hagan had the idea of producing a blues concert at the Media Theatre. A steering committee coalesced and the concert concept evolved into that of hosting an annual festival with quality regional blues acts at all of Media’s restaurants, bars and coffee shops on a single day. This new concept was fully in line with the precise goals of the Houstoun/Alvarez Plan.
We had our early detractors, more than a few who spouted, “Impossible!” upon hearing of the Blues Stroll plans. But what we soon discovered were several restaurant owners who were all willing to “go all in” and work together. Chuck Margis of the Plumstead Inn, the late Jim Carney of John’s Grille, Jerry Moore of Stephen’s, Nic Yocco of 7 Stones Café, and Margaret and Warren Kuo, and other owners quickly got behind the Blues Stroll. With the Media Business Authority acting as the umbrella organizing group, the first Blues Stroll was held with great acts in 10 venues. It was an enormous success – Media’s most popular event in memory. These successes have continued…now 40 in number to be exact.
In 2003, this same group launched the Americana Roots Ramble and Jazz By Night – and the full AMFS took flight. All three music festivals use the same operations formula – reasonably priced single ticket admission to hear a variety of outstanding acts. We now regularly present musical acts at over 20 venues. Over the years, the Series has attracted more than 80,000 attendees to State Street.
The Series has maintained a high bar for its musical talent. The Jazz By Night on Nov. 21 was no exception. We presented The 2015 Philly Legends Saxophone Summit featuring Odean Pope, Bootsie Barnes, Larry McKenna, and Elliott Levin – master musicians known around the world.