Festival Memories

2020 would have been our 34th straight year of Juneau Jazz & Classics Festivals. We asked old and new friends to share some of their favorite memories of the Festival with us. The results have been heartwarming, funny, and poignant. Please share your own memories by writing to info@jazzandclassics.org.

Toby Clark

Nancy DeCherney

Grace Elliott

Laura Haywood

Tom Melville

Glacier concert

Nancy DeCherney

The beloved director of the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council has been a huge supporter of Juneau Jazz & Classics over the years — we cannot imagine the Festival without her!

My favorite memory of the Festival is that of the concert at the Glacier — I think it was 2001. For some unknown reason, in the winter planning stages, Linda and I decided we would have an OUTDOOR CONCERT in front of the Mendenhall Glacier by the falls. WHAT WERE WE THINKING?? It was one of those rainy, soggy, dreary Mays, with rain every single day, and as you recall, the Festival was in the latter half of May in those days. We were dismal and forlorn. 

The group would come across Mendenhall Lake from Skaters Cabin in canoes, with Rick Trostel in the bow, trumpeting their arrival.

The day dawned one of those miraculously gorgeous crystal clear magnificent and all the more marvelous for its unexpectedness days!  Truly a miracle. 

All transpired as planned – the people came out in droves, the musicians sailed to shore to the sound of fanfares, and the concert matched the day in beauty and magic. 

At 5 pm we all hiked back; I was the last car packing in, and just as I left the parking lot, it began to rain again, for the remainder of the Festival, as I recall. 

That spectacular day inspired us to have music outdoors every year, and led to a decade of Community Days on Campus – and the days were most often beautiful. 

Oh, and remember the year where the Finale was Quartetto Gelato and Blind Boys of Alabama? Oh my! So many good memories.


Tom Melville

Tom Melville

The man behind our lucid and fascinating program notes every year has shared some wonderful memories with us.

Thirty-three years of festivals, hundreds of concerts in dozens of venues, thousands of performers. And, of course, countless memories, many more than can be easily listed. But over the years, certain performers and performances, certain pieces, and certain events have stood out for me.

From that point my own recollections of the Festivals have been colored not just by the actual performers and performances but also by my research and writing in the months before.

One: I somehow missed the handful of concerts that constituted the first Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival in 1987, but I can distinctly remember several aspects the second festival, in particular soprano Candace Goetz to whom I was introduced by a favorite Festival volunteer Peter McDowell, her escort around Juneau. By the following year I was fully involved, having taken over the job and privilege of writing program notes from George Hoyt who had moved out of Juneau. From that point my own recollections of the Festivals have been colored not just by the actual performers and performances but also by my research and writing in the months before. In 1989, Candace Goetz was again a highlight, but more than anything I remember pianist Robert McCoy, also appearing at his second Festival. On the first Sunday, Bob performed in two piano trios. On Friday, he accompanied Ms. Goetz in several major works in the first half of the concert, while the Brahms Piano Quintet was scheduled for the second half. In the Festival finale on the second Sunday, he was again accompanying Ms. Goetz in several operatic pieces as well as soloing on the finale of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. By then several of those involved in the Festival thought he deserved a special t-shirt with “Iron Bob McCoy” emblazoned on it. The following year there were two pianists which in turn allowed a wonderful performance of the original piano four-hand versions of several of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances and Dvořak’s Slavonic Dances.

Two: Those who know me will not be surprised that I have particularly fond memories of the vocalists who have graced the Festival stage over the years. And not just the classical singers. Hearing Carmen McRae was (nearly) as much a treat as hearing Marni Nixon. Tenor John Duykers came to Juneau after gaining international fame as the originator of the role of Mao Tse-tung in John Adams’ opera Nixon in China. Baritone Jubilant Sykes was just making a name for himself when he appeared here in a program that included spirituals as well as art songs. Since then he has gained wider recognition as the star of a new recording of Bernstein’s Mass.

Concert at the Shrine

Three: One day in the fall of 2010, Linda Rosenthal and I went into The Rookery for a cup of tea and a discussion of the classical side of the Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival. Linda was looking for an alternative to the “Classical Cruise” which had never really worked well. I suggested the Shrine of St. Therese. I had done a small concert there a few years before and knew that the Shrine’s chapel had recently undergone a renovation that included a new heating system and resurfacing of the interior walls. On a nice summery day the Shrine is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and on a blowing, rainy day the chapel would provide a cozy spot to listen to wonderful chamber music. And we both knew Juneauites would jump at an excuse to go Out the Road in May. The “Strings at the Shrine” immediately became one of the great successes of the Festival, the single afternoon concert quickly becoming two concerts and then four with the addition of “Winds at the Shrine.” Juneau artist Arnie Weimer happened to be in The Rookery that afternoon and drew a sketch of our conversation which he presented to Linda, a nice reminder of that fruitful sitdown, even if all you can see of me is the back of my head.

(More to come…)


Laura Haywood

Laura remembers how much she loved attending Juneau Jazz & Classics with her mom, back when she lived in Seattle and had no idea she would ever live in Juneau.


Grace Elliott

Sister Grace is the Juneau Jazz & Classics official blues goddess.

Over the years Grace has had many festival jobs, from emceeing the Blues cruise to stage managing, house managing and squiring artists around town. But this is one position that she alone has held:

Badge ID text: JJ&C's Feng Shui and Emergency Breathwork COACH

Toby Clark (and Macauley)

Our beloved lighting guy and all around get-it-done guy shares his festival memories. Turns out, he misses us! Thank you Toby, we miss you, too, and we will see you soon.