Jazz in June

For the first time in 29 years, Lincoln audiences are unable to gather with their picnic blankets and decks of cards in hand, ready to spread across the lush lawn outside the Sheldon Museum of Art for Lincoln’s summer tradition of Jazz in June. Instead, jazz enthusiasts must tune in to a live-streamed concert series of Nebraska’s finest artists from the comfort of their own homes, free from sudden downpour and their respective quilt islands.

As the live musical performance temporarily moves to YouTube and Facebook, Bill Stephan, chair of the Jazz in June Advisory Board, ensures audiences the talent will be of the series’ usual caliber.

“It’s going to be great music. That’s the Jazz in June tradition,” Stephan said. “Jazz is a special, American artform, so that’s going to be the same.”

Unlike previous years, however, this year’s lineup will only feature Nebraska-based jazz artists. Stephan said this choice is an effort to promote local talents and support them during what are likely financially trying times due to COVID-19. Additionally, Stephan hopes the livestreams will give people from around the world a taste of Nebraska’s music scene.

“You don’t have to be in Nebraska to watch Jazz in June,” Stephan said. “That’ll be fun to share the great talents of Nebraska with not only Nebraskans, but probably people from all over who will be tuning in.”

The concert series will feature an array of musicians, from student bands like the Madeline Reddel Quintet to the seasoned performers like longtime Lincoln favorites Hans Sturm and Jackie Allen.

Not only are Jazz in June employees looking forward to impressive musical guests, but staff members like director and coordinator Spencer Munson have been hard at work creating partnerships and professional concert setups to guarantee the concerts are visually engaging.

The Jazz in June staff is pairing with the videographers and musicians at Basement Creators Network, a livestream concert organization that has existed long before the days of social distancing, to film in high definition in a decorated secret space that’s built for creating musical masterpieces. Not to mention, Munson said, the audio quality will be considerably more professional than live-streamed concerts shot from a phone.

“We’ve hired a professional crew of audio technicians, have three different camera angles and folks moving around with high-definition cameras,” Munson said. “We feel the quality of the product will be a lot higher than a lot of things you’ll be seeing on Instagram and Facebook.”

Following the end of each livestream, Jazz in June employees will release an educational video by the artists featured that week. The pre-recorded video will appear on YouTube and inform those who are further interested in the musical techniques used by the performers in the livestream.

Munson said he hopes the concerts and educational content help expand viewers’ idea of what jazz music can be.

“A lot of people have a very narrow impression of what jazz is,” Munson said, “and I think you’re going to see a lot of different styles in the season this year — from more of an R&B soul mentality to a very New Orleans mentality and classic mentality.”

Munson hopes — and tentatively plans — to see Lincoln back at the Sheldon next summer for more dancing on the campus green. Whether it’s soulful performers or retro bands, sculpture garden shows or couch concerts, Jazz in June continues to regard one purpose.

“It’s still about the music,” Munson said. “We felt the need to bring the joy to [people] because they can’t congregate … It’s still about supporting the arts in Lincoln.”