Carmel Jazz Fest: An Exciting Addition To
City’s Arts Scene
This month, Carmel Monthly is jazzed to feature Carmel residents Blair Clark and Ashley Ulbricht on its cover. Clark is the executive director/chief executive officer of the Carmel Jazz Festival, and Ulbricht is the board president. The Carmel Jazz Festival organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that is organizing a multi-day, multi-stage event that will be held in Carmel, Indiana, on August 11 and 12, 2023.
Blues and R&B artists will be featured, along with vendors from the local Carmel community. Guests from not only the surrounding areas but all over the country will be able to enjoy music, food and vendors, all in the most beautiful parts of the City of Carmel. The festival will feature multiple venues for festival attendees to enjoy music and performances. These venues include the Palladium, the Tarkington Theatre, the Carmel Gazebo, Carter Green, the Studio Theater, the Midtown Plaza Stage and others throughout the central core of Carmel, Indiana!
Education, Opportunity and Entertainment
The Carmel Jazz Fest mission is to celebrate Indiana’s rich jazz music history, highlight national and international jazz, R&B and blues musicians and spotlight and educate emerging, upcoming artists in the hopes of energizing the community through the vibrant sounds of jazz, blues and R&B music.
Clark’s lifelong passion for music and education is the impetus for the Carmel Jazz Fest.
“I’m a singer-songwriter, producer and owner of Artist Development Company, and I’ve been singing professionally since I was 16,” Clark shared. “I also coach artists, and music has been my life — my whole life. So, when the opportunity came to start Carmel Jazz Fest, I immediately began thinking about who the best person would be to join me in this [opportunity], and the first person I reached out to was Ashley [Ulbricht].”
Clark shared that he has been Ulbricht’s vocal coach, and the two formed a fast friendship and shared passion for music, the arts and the city of Carmel.
Ulbricht added, “I moved [to Carmel] from Northern Indiana, and though I came here looking for a job as a city attorney, I had met with Mayor Brainard and we connected on a musician level, as he is a musician himself and I’ve been classically trained on the violin since age 4. I remember [Brainard saying], ‘You have to come here because of what we are creating here.’ So, yes — I’m an attorney, currently with Taft [Stettinius & Hollister, LLP], but I’ve always hoped to meld everything together, and while it has taken a decade for that to happen, it’s all coming to fruition by me partnering with Blair to help with the Carmel Jazz Festival.”
Although the frontline mission of the festival is to bring world-class entertainment to world-class venues in Carmel, the opportunity and educational components are equally important to Clark, Ulbricht and their board of directors.
Ulbricht stated, “I remember, at age 4, seeing children playing the violin on Sesame Street. I also remember telling my mom that I wanted to play. Because I was exposed to lessons, I was able to realize my talents, and from age 4 to college, that was an integral part of who I became. I would love to be able to give back to children throughout central Indiana and to be able to work with children in schools to help them realize their dreams.”
Clark further explained that as part of the “opportunity” arm of their organization’s mission, the board has invited the jazz bands and respective professors from Indiana University, Ball State University, Butler University and the University of Indiana to perform at the upcoming festival.
“This is where the opportunity for the young college musicians comes in,” Clark said. “They will have the ability to play on stage [and] will have the ability to interact with some of these local, regional and national/international artists and bands. They will be able to pick their brains and talk with them about the industry. So, the education, opportunity, and entertainment components are all beginning to fit together like a tight woven glove.”
Not Your Typical Jazz Festival
“There’s a lot of great [jazz] festivals that people go to, but they’re almost all outside, and the great thing about the Carmel Jazz Fest is the infrastructure we are utilizing,” Clark said. “You will be able to see an act inside Feinstein’s, the Studio Theater or Tarkington [theater], or sit outside and enjoy entertainment on Carter Green or the Carmel Gazebo. And you can check out a blues performer and then the next hour go see something jazz. There’s a lot of variety within the same festival.”
The festival will have designated areas both at the Carter Green location and the Carmel Gazebo at which patrons can purchase food and alcoholic beverages. Both Clark and Ulbricht emphasized the importance of including local area businesses — restaurants, wineries, breweries and distilleries — in the planning of the festival. The two are actively reaching out and meeting with the local business community to make them aware of the festival for their own planning purposes as well as inviting them to collaborate and participate [at the festival] if they are interested.
There are several sponsorship opportunities as well. For any local businesses who are interested in learning more about these opportunities and for anyone interested in volunteering at the inaugural Carmel Jazz Festival, you are invited to “Get Jazzed” and visit the official website for more information!
It Takes a Community to Make an Impact
Both Blair and Ulbricht expressed their sincerest gratitude to not only their fellow team members — Jeremy Miller, Erica Thompson, Lisa McCann and Heather Collins — but also the City of Carmel, Mayor Jim Brainard, Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael, Hotel Carmichael, the campus of The Center for the Performing Arts and all of the sponsors who have already signed on, noting that without their support, the event would not have been possible.
Mayor Jim Brainard, in particular, expressed his support for the upcoming festival and its purpose.
“Carmel has built its economic development model around music and the arts,” Brainard said. “It’s important to hold events like this to promote downtown activity, which supports our small business community, including our restaurants and retail shops. I’m particularly excited about this festival because it mixes great local musicians with regional, national and internationally known musicians. It’s important to preserve and build upon both our nation and state’s jazz legacies and culture, and this festival provides a wonderful educational opportunity for students and young people that may not be as familiar with Indiana’s [jazz] roots. In continuing with celebrating our city’s growing diversity, the Carmel Jazz Fest allows all attendees to experience world-class entertainment while connecting with the history and culture of jazz.”
Fellow supporter, collaborator and Hotel Carmichael General Manager Jamie Hopwood added, “Hotel Carmichael and Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael is very excited to be part of the first Carmel Jazz festival. This event will help highlight all the amazing things that the Carmel venues are doing to drive a great music scene. It’s a fun time to be part of the Carmel entertainment community.”
Stay Tuned for More Exciting Announcements!
Clark and Ulbricht enthusiastically shared the festival’s lineup as was confirmed at the time of this publication. Clark will be performing some original music as well as debuting a song co-written by Preston Glass and the late Al Jarreau that was never previously released. Ulbricht will be performing and showcasing her electronic violin skills at the Carmel Jazz Fest. Additionally, there are some extraordinary talents on deck with a few surprises to be announced in the near future!
National performers Evelyn “Champagne” King [CA] and Freddie Fox [CA] are just a couple of the international/national artists who will be preforming, along with regional and local artists: Josh Kaufman [IN], Jennie DeVoe [IN], Tad Robinson Band [IN], Steve Allee Big Band [IN], Pavel Polanco-Safadit [IN], Brenda Williams [IN], Premium Blend [IN], The Dave Bennett Quartet [MI], Both Sides of Joni Project ft. Alexis Cole [NY] Tim Cunningham [St. Louis] and The Bottom 40 Band [Nashville].
Be sure to check out the Carmel Jazz Fest website at carmeljazzfest.org for updates on ticket sales, additions to the entertainment lineup and other exciting and major festival announcements!