Press Club

Arts Focus: The Partnership Behind The Rosslyn Jazz Festival

This column is written and sponsored by Arlington Arts / Arlington Cultural Affairs, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

Now in its 28th year, the Rosslyn Jazz Festival is one of Arlington County’s signature events, annually drawing thousands to hear internationally-renowned musical artists.

Presented by the Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID) and co-sponsored with Arlington’s Cultural Affairs Division/Arlington Arts, the partnership harnesses the respective strengths of the locally-focused non-profit and Arlington County Government to maximum effect.

“Having a thriving arts and culture scene is key to attracting a residential base and workforce that are vital to the business community today,” said Mary-Claire Burick, president of the Rosslyn BID. “We’re in a competitive region, and collaborating with local organizations like Arlington Arts to host one of the region’s largest festivals gives us an edge when we’re talking to businesses that are looking to relocate or expand in Rosslyn.”

Most of the on-the-ground logistics, such as permitting, promotion and vendor area coordination, are led by the BID. Using their formidable network of staff, volunteers and community connections, the BID transforms the three-acre Gateway Park and the surrounding thoroughfares into a safe, smooth-running festival-site, stocked with some of the area’s top food trucks with options to engage the entire family.

While the County had always provided production and marketing support, since 2001 the programming team at Arlington Arts expanded their role to oversee all elements of the on-stage production and curating the musical line-up. Re-envisioning the festival to highlight more national and international touring artists, attendance quickly rose from 1,200 to an average 7,000 annually.

“Like jazz itself the festival has evolved,” says Josh Stoltzfus, who programs the Festival, as Director of Cultural Development for Arlington Arts. “During the past several years, we’ve been incorporating a more diverse array of music to feature critically acclaimed global music, soul, funk and all manner of jazz-related expression.”

Last year, the festival enjoyed one of its best years to-date, drawing more than 10,000 attendees. It’s not unusual to see audience members who travel from as far away as Philadelphia, Raleigh or Chicago for the event, all of which benefits Arlington’s restaurant and hotel industry as well.

Free and open to the public, this year’s Rosslyn Jazz Festival takes place on Saturday, September 8 from 1-7 p.m. at Gateway Park, 1300 Lee Highway (2 blocks from Rosslyn Metro, at the foot of Key Bridge). For information, visit or

For 2018, the Rosslyn Jazz Festival continues to pack a serious artistic wallop:

Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles (5:30 p.m.) — Uniquely blending blues, soul, R&B, Afrobeat, gospel and jazz, NPR calls two-time Grammy award winner and former Snarky Puppy keyboardist Cory Henry “a master” and says his “musical charisma is a match for a nearly 400 pound [Hammond B-3] organ.”

Orquesta Akokán (3:45 p.m.)  Listening to Orquesta Akokán’s debut on Daptone Records, you feel the spirits of Cuba’s musical giants. Making their DC/Baltimore area debut, you’ll marvel at how this 14-piece big band conveys the power and playfulness of the renowned Latin dance orchestras of the 1940’s and 1950’s yet still manage to sound fresh and new.

True Loves (2:20 p.m.) — Seattle’s eight-piece instrumental soul group makes their East Coast debut. John Rickards of KEXP calls them one of the city’s best bands. “It’s the soundtrack to that car chase you’ve always wanted to be in,” he says.

Aztec Sun (1:00 p.m.) — Known for their infectious songwriting and rhythmic versatility, Aztec Sun has twice landed a top spot on Washington City Paper’s coveted “best of” list. Modeled in the funk and soul traditions, they’re a go-to band for live events and house parties in the D.C. area.

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