The New Smyrna Beach Jazz Festival is one of Central Florida’s premier music events. It is a lively three- day affair with great jazz, good food and lots of fun. Flagler Avenue has proven to be the perfect location, with concert goers going from club to club all day from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian River. Through the years the festival has expanded to include Third Avenue, Canal Street, South Atlantic Avenue, the North Causeway in New Smyrna Beach. This year we have added Riverside Drive and Route 44.
The first event was in September of 2001. It began when founder, Marc Monteson took action on an idea the Merchants of Flagler Association had for creating an event to help bring traffic to local businesses during the slow time of the year. He had traveled to downtown Orlando in the 1990’s to the Church Street Station “Lynx Jazz Festival” and thought that would work on Flagler Avenue with folks going from club to club.
By 2014, the festival had grown to 24 venues hosting visitors from 10 states and featuring top name jazz musicians from all over including New Smyrna’s own, the late Harold Blanchard. For the 20th anniversary and after two cancellations, there will be twenty- one outdoor shows and eleven indoor. And after nineteen years in the month of September, we have moved to May.
Jazz was first introduced to the ’Avenue’ in the form of ‘Jazz It Up On Flagler Avenue’ in January, 2000. It was a series of bi-monthly concerts at the Gazebo, at the corner of Pine and Flagler. This event was spear-headed by John and Barbara Vazquez, Anthony Bell and Dave Fernandez. The first two concerts featured Acousticon and Don Nedobeck. After these two shows, Marc was brought in to book some concerts that included Mark Hodgson with Noble ”Thin Man” Watts, Thom Chambers, Lawrence App and Sal Ronci with Linda Cole.
Flagler Avenue artist Samuel Ruder donated his jazz boat piece that was used on posters and T-shirts. That same design went on the first two New Smyrna Beach Jazz Festival posters and T-shirts. ‘Jazz It Up On Flagler Avenue’ ran until April of 2002.
Today, the New Smyrna Beach Jazz Festival has become a top-notch weekend musical event with help from many private and public donations, a few local volunteers for the festival weekend and the dedication of Marc Monteson.