Selby Ave JazzFest goes virtual, offering weekly doses of music

Steve Floyd/MSR News Kirk Whalum at the Selby Jazz Fest, Sept 10, 2016

James On Jazz

The Selby Avenue Jazz Festival, a virtual edition, begins the first Saturday of September and every Saturday after. Each Saturday will feature a new act. Traditionally, the festival has always taken place on the second Saturday in September.

The festival marks its 19th anniversary this year. Everyone from saxophonists Kirk Whalum and Gerald Albright to vocalist Goapele (last year’s headliner) among other artists has performed as headliners.

The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (MSR) caught up with Mychael Wright (MW), the festival founder and owner of Golden Thyme Coffee Café, for highlights of what’s happening at this year’s festival.

MSR: Our current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic is preventing a lot of people from physically attending indoor and outdoor concerts, so how are you planning to adapt to the alternative changes?

MW: The technology of going virtual is a mighty tool. The State of Minnesota will give direction in what’s allowable as we tamp down the virus.

MSR: You have such a rich history of presenting both local and national acts, what has been one of the most memorable acts to perform at the festival so far, and why?

MW: There are several acts that come to mind and it really stems from the personality of the performers. I have a fond memory when Kirk and Kevin Whalum we’re getting ready to pray before they took the stage. I was going to give them their privacy to pray but Kirk grabs my hand and said, “Mychael would you pray with us?” So the three of us huddled in the Music House and prayed. That was an awesome experience. 

One of the classiest and laid back is Gerald Albright. He is a consummate professional musical statesman. Goapele took my breath away with her beauty, style, and angelic voice.

MSR: In previous years, typically how many people attend the festival each year?

MW: When I first began the fest we drew approximately 500 people throughout the day. Now, 19 years later, we have drawn more than 15,000 throughout a 12-hour period.  

MSR: How have you gauged interest for this year’s festival?

MW: Gauging interest is easy thanks to the technicalities of social media. It lets us know from a number of platforms how many people are interested in the promotion. The numbers as of last week were heading towards 8,000. I understand from a virtual social media platform standpoint that is an excellent range.

MSR: Usually there are many food and art vendors at the festival. Are you still planning to help promote them in some way?

MW: With the Crowd Cast format we are able to promote our arts and crafters venders, which as with all vendors have been severely hit hard. We’re still trying to build more interest from our vendors to participate. It’s all new and may take a while for them to catch on. We will assist until they get comfortable going virtual.

MSR: Where do festival-goers go to virtually experience this year’s festival?

MW: To access the performances go to our Selby Avenue Jazz Fest web page. Once there you will see the countdown to our 2020 Selby Avenue Virtual Edition notification. Simply follow the direction to  “Save My Spot.”  You will be logged into view the scheduled performances.

This year’s Selby Avenue Jazz Festival includes the following acts streaming live in your living room each Saturday night in September at 7 pm on

Charmin & Shapira – Sat., Sept. 5

Solomon Parham Quintet – Sat​., Sept​.12

PJP Trio, featuring Patricia Lacy​ – Sat​. Sept​.19

Nachito Herrera​ – Sat​., Sept​. 26

The Selby Avenue Jazz Festival is presented by Golden Thyme Coffee Café and AARP Minnesota. 2020 sponsors include Move Minnesota, Metro Regional Arts Council, Xcel Energy, and US Bank.