From the beginning, the Festival has emphasized Chicago artists, reserving at least 50% of the bookings for Chicago artists.
A committee comprised of Jazz Institute board members and other members of the jazz community, including representatives of other local festivals, jazz educators and critics, radio DJs and musicians begins the process in October of the preceding year. A theme or themes are decided in the initial discussions. Hundreds of submissions are sorted and auditioned, as well as specific proposals from bands and musicians sent directly to committee members. Members of the committee make proposals which are voted on until consensus is reached. Press materials and recordings can be sent to either the Mayor’s Office of Special Events at @121 N. LaSalle Room 806, Chicago, IL 60602 or the Jazz Institute of Chicago @ 410 S. Michigan, #943, Chicago, IL 60605
There are currently four stages which run from noon to 9:30 PM, Friday, Saturday and Sunday: The Jackson Stage, which features resident musicians and some out of town guests is located at Jackson and South Shore Drive and runs from noon -4:30. The Jazz and Heritage Stage which features a mix of music and interactive and informative programming is located in the grassy area to the South of the Jackson Stage and runs from 12:30-4:30. The new Jazz and Hip Hop Collision Stage will be located near Buckingham Fountain and features jazz and hip hop artists manning interactive stations. It will run from noon-3:00. The Petrillo Stage runs form 5:00 PM to 9:30 PM. An Art Fair is located near the Rose Gardens adjacent to Buckingham Fountain.
The Festival is family friendly to people of all ages. Special activities for and featuring youth can be found at the Jazz and Hip Hop Collision stage and at the Jazz and Heritage Stage.
Programming a balance of musical styles has become the signature of the Chicago Festival. Careful consideration of mixing mainstream, traditional, experimental, vocal and blues-based jazz has educated audiences about the diversity of the whole. By presenting the familiar and the unfamiliar side by side the Festival has opened many ears to understanding and appreciating the continuum of the music as it evolves.