A non-profit dedicated to preserving and promoting jazz artists and appreciation.
Dedicated to the live performance, promotion, and preservation of jazz as a unique American art form, the Blue Jay Jazz Foundation (BJJF), a nonprofit 501c3 organization, supports music education in the San Bernardino Mountain communities and nurtures new generations of musicians while building interest and expanding audiences for jazz as both art and entertainment.
Its most visible contribution to the mountain community culture is the annual BLUE JAY JAZZ FESTIVAL, which it produces over three consecutive August Thursdays. In 2017, after a decade of staging the event in the parking lot above the Rite-Aid in Blue Jay, the Festival moved to SkyPark in SkyForest, east of Lake Arrowhead.
Managed by a volunteer BOARD OF DIRECTORS, and with steady support from individuals and businesses in its community, the Foundation maintains several year-round PROGRAMS, including the 'Adopt an Instrument' lending program that accepts donated musical instruments, refurbishes them if necessary, and provides them free to local students. Also, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Lake Arrowhead, we annually award scholarship grants to deserving high school musicians through our FUTURE GENERATIONS OF JAZZ.
"Since the Blue Jay Jazz Foundation's incorporation in 2006, its board, volunteers and supporters have worked fiercely to keep jazz alive on our mountain," said BJJF President Chris Levister. "However, we have also been a community partner beyond the music, distributing care packages and toys for the holidays, providing basic essentials after the 2003 and 2007 wildfires, and donating a portion of the proceeds from our 2008 Jazz by the Lake fundraiser to Rebuilding Mountain Hearts and Lives and Operation Provider. BJJF has also supported the efforts of The Lake Arrowhead Rotary, Art & Wine Festival, Mountains Community Hospital, Christmas in April, UCLA Mt. Bruins, Lake Arrowhead Soroptimist and the Lake Arrowhead Film Festival."
The Blue Jay Jazz Festival has also evolved. It was in 1989 that musician, businessman and jazz aficionado Pat Welsh, along with other local musicians, began holding weekly jazz jam sessions in the parking lot of the Royal Oak restaurant in Blue Jay.
Two years later that parking lot was host to the first “Summer Jazz Celebration,” which followed the first paid-admission concert, that April. It was a special performance by members of “The Tonight Show” Orchestra, conducted by Tommy Newsom and featuring Conte Candoli, Snooky Young, Ross Tompins and Ed Shaugnessy. In 1993, the Lighthouse Jazz All Stars Reunion was produced in Blue Jay as a concert tribute to Howard Rumsey, with Shorty Rogers, Bud Shanks, Bill Perkins and Candoli.
It was in 1999 that the summer series, presented by the Blue Jay Business Association and the Arrowhead Arts Association, became the Blue Jay Jazz Festival. The Festival continued until 2005, when the Arrowhead Arts Association focused its summer events on classical music and popular music concerts. At that point, a small group of jazz musicians, business leaders and jazz enthusiasts created the “Jazz in Blue Jay” series, and in 2007, this group formed the 501c3 non-profit Blue Jay Jazz Foundation.
Since then, the Foundation has worked to provide opportunities for the mountain community to experience jazz as entertainment as well as a tool for music education and cultural enrichment.
Photos: Opening night of the 2018 Blue Jay Jazz Festival, with the audience enjoying Poncho Sanchez. Photo by Hugh Bialecki