As Beantown Jazz Festival Ends, Berklee to Partner with BAMS Fest

The collaboration strives to break down racial and social barriers to arts, music, and culture across Greater Boston.

March 27, 2019

Berklee College of Music announces the end of its long-running Beantown Jazz Festival, one of the most anticipated and largest free musical events in Boston. Beginning this summer, Berklee will partner with the Boston Art & Music Soul (BAMS) Festival in Franklin Park. This free, family-friendly event in its second year takes place Saturday, June 22, noon to 8:00 p.m., at Playstead Field in Franklin Park, 1 Pierpont Road.

Berklee produced the Beantown Jazz Festival beginning in 2007. The event became a tradition for residents across Greater Boston and beyond, drawing thousands to the intersection of Massachusetts and Columbus Avenues for a day of music, children’s activities, and food vendors. When renovations to the adjacent Carter Playground added a football field, tennis courts, and an enclosed play space, there was no longer room in the park to program the event the way it had been conceived and presented for many years.

BAMS Fest is a nonprofit organization that breaks down racial and social barriers to arts, music, and culture for marginalized communities of color in Greater Boston. Its inaugural festival in 2018 drew more than 2,000 participants for hip-hop, spoken word, and soul music by local and national artists of color at historic Franklin Park, where touring African American musicians played in the 1970s, as did students from the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts. The festival also featured local visual artists making murals, local vendors, and food trucks with varied menus.  

"It's exciting to see a renowned institution like Berklee work with BAMS Fest, which just received a Model Equity Organization award from the Boston Cultural Council for its exemplary work in promoting cultural, economic, and racial diversity in the arts," said Kara Elliott-Ortega, chief of arts and culture for the City of Boston. "I look forward to seeing BAMS Fest continue to expand upon its excellent work through this new partnership."  

Berklee’s participation will underscore the diversity reflected in the BAMS Fest mission, with students from around the globe adding music indigenous to their places of origin. Terri Lyne Carrington, Berklee professor and artistic director of the Berklee Institute for Jazz and Gender Justice, will serve as a cocurator for BAMS Fest, after serving as artistic director for the Beantown Jazz Festival.

“This festival is for the people and designed by the people. We want to create a space of belonging and celebration for communities of color, all while raising the profile of local visual and performing artists, and working towards building an artist-centric city,” said Catherine Morris, founder and executive director of BAMS Fest. “We are truly excited at the growth of our partnership with Berklee College of Music in a way that conveys their investment in community engagement, diversity, inclusion, and the arts.”

BAMS Festival is made possible with funding from the Boston Foundation, the Mass Cultural Council, Boston Cultural Council, and the City of Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture.

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