The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

First Art of Cool festival in Durham hopes to engage residents in local, international jazz

The festival, which will be held Friday and Saturday, will host more than 30 jazz performances on two outdoor stages and six indoor music venues. The festival will feature performances from Maceo Parker, The Clayton Brothers and Thundercat.

Cicely Mitchell, co-founder of the Art of Cool Project and president of its board of directors, said that the project took about two years to put together.

“The Art of Cool is a jazz-protecting concept,” she said. “We are about presenting and promoting jazz and expanding the audience of jazz.”

Mitchell said there is something at the festival for everyone, regardless of budget or musical background. There is one free stage per day, and people can buy day passes for $65 and two-day passes for $120.

“The biggest thing is to help music lovers discover new music; for people who may not necessarily like jazz, turning them on to jazz,” she said. “It’s got multiple goals, multiple entrance points for different types of people.”

Mitchell said the festival is mostly volunteer-run, and many students help out.

Stephen Coffman, a Durham native and drummer in three of the bands at the festival, said that the Art of Cool Project started as a grassroots movement and does a lot to promote jazz in the Triangle.

“They have an amazing ear for modern jazz, and they obviously push hard to get good music in the Triangle, so I’m 100 percent supportive of their mission,” he said. “It’s really helped me in bands that I’ve been in to be presented to Triangle music listeners.”

Coffman said that one thing he really likes about the festival is that it makes Triangle residents aware of what is going on in their backyard culturally.

“They’re really spreading it out to smaller clubs and theaters, outdoor spaces, and it really helps to let the community know that there are music venues that are not only available and accessible during a big music festival like this weekend, but every weekend,” he said.

Coffman graduated from UNC with a degree in music performance. He said that the Art of Cool Festival is a good opportunity for students to see unique performances away from campus.

“Personally, I think that the bands that the Art of Cool has booked for this weekend is a very specially curated brand of music that you might not get to hear at a Carolina Performing Arts presentation,” he said.

In addition to bringing jazz musicians to the community, the festival works to bring opportunities to local bands and organizations. The Kidznotes Jazz Ensemble, made up of music students ages 10 through 12, will perform at the festival Friday.

Kidznotes is an organization that provides free music instruction to children in low-income neighborhoods in Durham and Raleigh.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity,” said Kim Demery, Kidznotes’ director of programming. “I think it’s an opportunity for our students to share their experience with the public.”

Demery said that the students in the ensemble include two violinists, two cellists and a trombonist.

“Academically, students are involved in music, but they’re also involved in building great character and giving back to the community, so I think it’s an opportunity to give back to the community as well,” Demery said.

As for that community, Coffman said he hopes that people will come to the festival even if they do not go to a lot of performances or listen to a lot of jazz otherwise.

“It’s an American-bred style of music,” he said. “So I think from a heritage standpoint, it’s very important for Americans to listen to and to appreciate and know about jazz.”

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.