The Detroit International Jazz Festival was founded in 1980 by Robert McCabe and the Detroit Renaissance, an organization with a roster of corporate and business leaders. The festival was developed to provide an opportunity for people to come together to enjoy world-class jazz and showcase pride in Detroit.
In 1991, the festival merged with Detroit’s Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts where it resided until September 2005.
In January 2006, jazz enthusiast and philanthropist Gretchen Valade founded the Detroit International Jazz Festival Foundation with its goal to produce and manage the popular festival. Proprietor of the popular Dirty Dog Jazz Café and the Mack Avenue Records jazz label, Valade was committed to saving the festival from extinction when funding dwindled. Her commitment to Detroit and the jazz festival resulted in establishing a $10 million endowment that provided much needed seed funding for festival operations.
Renamed the Detroit Jazz Festival, it now spans three blocks along Woodward Avenue from Campus Martius to Hart Plaza on Jefferson Avenue on the banks of the Detroit River.
Attracting noted jazz headliners, the festival is also home to many of Detroit’s finest musicians and students who participate in year-round education and community outreach programs with coveted opportunities to perform at the festival.
The Detroit Jazz Festival provides opportunities for local artists to participate in events leading up to Labor Day weekend beginning as early as February and continuing well past Labor Day weekend.
Now in its fourth year, the Jazz Infusion Program supports Detroit Public Schools to help foster the growth of young musicians to compete for college scholarships, pursue careers in music, and continue Detroit’s rich and deep jazz tradition.