“There was virtually no jazz scene in Cleveland, and jazz education in the schools was not very strong. I felt a sense of mission about how important it was educate the students, the public, the community about jazz, if this great American art form was not to completely die." Professor Thomas F. Horning
Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland, a promising but modest two-day celebration that began in 1980, has grown into a 10-day festival, attracting 15,000 people annually. The festival, now centered at the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts on the Metropolitan Campus, generates year-round educational and concert presentations.
Dr. Thom Horning, a professor and jazz enthusiast in the Tri-C Music Department, worked with the school and its administration to launch the inaugural JazzFest event in May 1980.
With the help of pianist Reginald Buckner, an artist-in-residence and ethnomusicologist, Horning invited prominent jazz musicians to Cleveland to perform. Excitement built as JazzFest landed famous artists including drummer Buddy Rich, saxophonist Stan Getz, pianist McCoy Tyner, and pianist and bandleader Earl "Fatha" Hines.
By 1984, the JazzFest grew to ten days and over the years has successfully fulfilled its mission to foster the history and nurture the future of jazz, to provide educational opportunities for students of all ages and in all walks of life and to bring world-class jazz to Cleveland
The Tri-C JazzFest national reputation garnered praise from DownBeat magazine as “one of the top handful of national level jazz fests of any genre.”