By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4)City Park Jazz will not go on as it normally would this year because of coronavirus. Organizers announced this week they will cancel the outdoor music festival that draws thousands to the Denver park and has been a tradition for more than 30 years, but they will still pay the performers and crew who would have worked the event in the summer.

“It’s an incredible, it’s a great community experience and people picnic, and just spend time together and listen to music and dance,” said Andy Bercaw, music director for City Park Jazz. “We felt like it was probably the safest and smartest decision to cancel the festival for the year and it was heartbreaking.”

READ MORE: Ralph MD Makes His Final Rounds At Children's Hospital After Launching Medical Dog Program

(credit: City Park Jazz)

Bercaw is serving his eighth year with the nonprofit and hopes to help the music go on this summer by offering up the Oriental Theater to livestream or record performers in place of the traditional event. As one of the owners of the venue, he hopes they can still provide live music remotely for 10 Sundays beginning in June like they would at City Park.

“The hope is we can stream these concerts and people can watch from their backyards, their living rooms, with their friends socially distanced,” he told CBS4 on Thursday. “So many musicians are not getting paid right now, they’re losing all of their gigs until further notice.”

Erica Brown is a vocalist in the band The Cast Iron Queens, a group of all women who present a variety of genres including jazz, blues, and American. They were one of the acts scheduled for the 2020 season of City Park Jazz. She has participated twice before and looked forward to returning this year. Brown also says she was eager to see the others in the lineup because she felt it reflected the variety and range in style available in the Colorado music scene. Video of The Cast Iron Queens was provided by Ben Makinen / Bmakin Film.

(credit: CBS)

The decision made by the board of City Park Jazz is one she understands and reflects, it’s the current trend in their industry but the coronavirus is hurting their profession in a way she has never seen.

“This is unique because it’s hitting so many of us at the exact same time,” Brown said Thursday. “We’re having to figure out how we can support each other until we can get back to that place where it can start blossoming again and there’s room to breathe.”

The promise to not only pay the musicians booked for this summer but also the production and stage crew means a lot to her. She says City Park Jazz already has a great reputation about taking care of its performers so she greatly appreciates the thought they have put into their response.

“I was, as everyone has been, blown away because I will say this, they are more than fair financially with musicians,” she told CBS4 over a video phone interview. “It’s huge because no one was expecting it. Because with all the cancellation that all the venues have had and the reschedules and all that sort of thing.”

READ MORE: Animal Rights Lawyer Jennifer Emmi Accepts Plea Bargain In Murder-For-Hire Case

The board plans this event all year meeting once a month, relying on funding from the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, sponsors, and donations. The cost to cover the payment for all involved without the traditional festival will require more support to bring back the outdoor event next year.

“We’re just going to have to work extra hard for 2021, there’s no doubt about it, it’s going to have to be our biggest season yet,” Bercaw said inside City Park. “I think it’s going to mean a lot to these musicians, it’s hard enough to be an artist and try to make it.”

(credit: City Park Jazz)

It is a rare example of artists receiving the support they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brown acknowledges that others would like to follow City Park Jazz’s lead but do not have the ability to financially. She knows so many venues and organizations involved do not have the resources to pay performers. She has even paid some in the industry, like rehearsal studios, while she is unable to use their facilities. It’s the type of backing they want to give each other so they can all come out of this hardship.

“It frightens us but we don’t begrudge it,” she said. “We’re going to do the best that we can do and come back out of it, even stronger, I’m really convinced of that.”

RELATED: Latest Updates On The Coronavirus Outbreak In Colorado

Some members in the band rely solely on music for their income and they have not stopped working during the outbreak. The band is still rehearsing, remotely thanks to video conference call services. Brown says that during this time, artists are working hard to create new material, learning different skills, and identifying potential collaborations for when they can perform live again.

“I’m really excited to see what musically, what’s going to come out on the other end of this, because it’s gonna be awesome,” she said. “Let’s stay strong because we are all in this together, and if we do this right, we’ll all come out together.”

MORE NEWS: Illegal Street Racing In Aurora: Cars Can Be Impounded For Up To A Year

LINK: City Park Jazz

Shawn Chitnis