The NC Jazz Festival in Wilmington

9 02 2011




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We are just over a week away from the annual NC Jazz Festival in Wilmington, one of the longest-running traditional jazz festivals in the country, taking place February 17-19th.  My excuses to hit Wilmington typically involve sun, sand, and waves, so this vibrant event provides a unique opportunity to make the getaway during wintertime.

The NC Jazz Festival was conceived in 1980, launched by local jazz enthusiast Dr. Harry VanVelsor in celebration of Dixieland and traditional style jazz.  As the event grew in popularity, it drew famous names from around the nation and world, including greats such as Art Hodes, Milt Hinton, Keter Betts, Tony DiNicola, Kenny Davern, Johnny Frigo, Duke Heitger, and Bobby Rosengarden.  The event focuses on traditional jazz, the basic form with its roots in the music of New Orleans in the ’20s and ’30s.  However, as Jeff Reid explains in an article for The Beat Magazine, the festival also allows performers to experiment with the modern composition of “new” traditional jazz, creating “a new vibe from an old sound.”

Despite its rich legacy rooted in decades of tradition, the festival maintains a youthful spirit and vibrance, drawing performers ranging in age from 11 to 81.  Returning jazz violinist Jonathan Russell, a prodigy from New York, began performing at the festival in 2007 when he was only 11 years old, making him the youngest musician featured on the list.  Deeply discounted specials help to encourage the attendance of UNC-Wilmington and other college students, creating a diverse and intergenerational crowd.

Concerts take place Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights starting at 7:30pm at the Wilmington Hilton Riverside, located on the Cape Fear Riverfront.  Thursday night features a 3-hour exploration of the various styles of jazz, while Friday and Saturday nights each provide a 4-hour showcase of 15 musicians, divided into 7 sets.  Make plans to attend just one evening, or build a full weekend around it!  While general admission seats are $35 for Thursday and $50 for Friday or Saturday, as students we luck out big time – $15 for all nights.  If you can recruit a group, table reservations start at ten attendees.

While in town for the Jazz Festival, you should have plenty of time to explore Wilmington over the weekend – this historic, charming city has so much to offer besides Wrightsville Beach!  Stroll along the Riverwalk, the boardwalk lining Cape Fear River, or take a drive through the 230-block historic district featuring picturesque Victorian homes and converted factories that serve as restaurants, bars, and shops.  Be sure to stop in for a drink at Hell’s Kitchen, a lively bar that was one of the many Dawson’s Creek sets in town (One Tree Hill was filmed in Wilmington as well).  Plus, after you’ve had your fill of jazz each night, you won’t have to look far to find great nightlife in the backyard of UNC-Wilmington.


The wrap-up:

  • Distance from Duke: 2.5 hours
  • Recommended trip duration: Overnight or weekend getaway
  • Recommended season: February (for the festival specifically)



6 responses

10 02 2011
Christie Klauberg

Celeste- This is a very well-written and informative piece. The pictures at the beginning of this blog really help to draw the reader in and dare them to learn more. I can imagine that this destination draws a lot of attention and your blog certainly gives it justification as a great place to go. I might have to check it out 🙂 !!

11 02 2011

I really enjoy reading through your blog. You have all the details one would need for a trip to these locations laid out nicely. The slideshow at the beginning adds an aesthetic touch and also adds in an added perspective that might be hard to convey with words. The wrap-up section is great, and once more posts start filling in, it will be very nice to be able to scroll through and find potential road trip ideas based on distance or duration. I am from North Carolina but have been pretty terrible about taking road trips that lead to anywhere other than college towns, so I hope to give one of these a try and further explore the state.

11 02 2011


This post makes me want to leave all my work behind and embark on a journey to a wonderland called Wilmington! Your vivid description of the city, the historical beauty, and the jazz festival is enough to entice any Duke student to go on a road trip to Wilmington. Wilmington definitely sounds like one of those hidden sanctuaries of American music and traditions, and to students who have lived in metropolitan areas all their lives, having the opportunity to be introduced to and to explore this southern-flavored historical city is simply amazing! Apart from your enticing descriptions of the jazz festival and the city of Wilmington, your beautiful slideshow also helps to convince readers to take a trip to this city. Overall, the well written post and the eye-catching photos together are very effective at persuading students to come to Wilmington.


13 02 2011
Ellen Moeller

Celeste, I’ve loved reading through this your posts! For a while I’ve been hoping explore North Carolina more and your blog is certainly giving me incentive! I think this blog will actually be very useful for Duke students like me, who aren’t from North Carolina but are ready to discover what the state has to offer. The jazz festival sounds great; I hope I’ll have a chance to go before I graduate. I look forward to reading more of your blog!

14 02 2011

Celeste, I love the way your blog is coming along! The organization is really effective, and you’ve done a great job choosing pictures so far. You come across as very knowledgable about what you’re writing about (a good thing if you want people to follow your advice!) – I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

14 02 2011

Celeste, I’m loving your blog so far! I’ve actually been trying to plan a camping trip for this weekend since Christmas break, but might have to save that for another time because it is still quite chilly outdoors. You have definitely given some great options on alternatives with great detail and clarity. I’m also STILL in love with those slideshows. Your blog overall has a great feel and I’ll definitely be looking forward to more posts.

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