Jazzaar Festival

History .

Fritz Renold realized early in his musical career that next to talent, the success of a working musician lies as much in the level of his self-initiative and the extent of a global network. Renold was the first Swiss jazz musician to be signed on to SONY-BMG New York and after graduating with a Summa Cum Laude at the Berklee College of Music, he became the first Swiss and youngest faculty member at the same college. While in Boston he had the opportunity to work with Jerry Bergonzi, Alan Dawson, Adam Nussbaum, Miroslav Vitous, Danilo Perez, Herb Pomeroy, Hal Crook, Christian Jacob, George Russel and more.

Helen Savari, recording artist with EMI – Malaysia & Berklee Alumnus ’88 had realised the importance of role modelling for shaping and building young talents in music even while leading a successful singing career in Malaysia with her sister Irene Savari (the duet ‘Cenderawasih’) back in the early eighties. When Helen and Fritz first met in Boston, MA during their studies at the Berklee College of Music, this was a topic that bond their friendship from the start.

Upon moving to Switzerland in 1990, the newly wed couple initiated a role model based Project, that gave musically talented youth from Aargau the opportunity to play together with international jazz luminaries, especially from the USA. They combined the ‘Bostonian Friends‘ tours that was soon infiltrated by Friends from New York, Los Angeles and other American states to extend into projects associated with Renold’s pedagogical charges at the Swiss Jazz School Bern, the Kantonsschulen Aarau and the national Music University in Stuttgart. These frequent musical encounters between professionals and student musicians became the heart and core for Jazzaar’s music educational concept. Each time mentors from the contemporary international jazz scene such as Christian Jacob or Randy Brecker would spend a week with youth musicians working out new compositions and arrangements to present impeccable performances together. During a Bostonian Friends tour, the Renolds became acquainted with the Swiss trumpeter Franco Ambrosetti with whom they initiated together a national level Swiss Youth Jazz Orchestra that began touring with the professionals with performances in Switzerland and in Europe.

However with the founding of the jazzaar Association in 1997 that would relieve the Renolds of the growing administrative and financial strains, a youth project in Aarau developed with public and private support that would be initially known as Jazzaar concerts. The Youth Jazz Orchestra however was limited to student intakes only from the canton Aargau mostly due to cantonal policy. Nevertheless, the Aargau Youth Jazz Orchestra grew tremendously into three youth projects that Jazzaar produced annually.

The activities at the event gradually expanded with additional concerts offered and daily workshops at the event hall for participants and the public as well as jam sessions at local restaurants in Aarau lending a festive feel throughout the week that the event since 2012 was coined as the Jazzaar Festival.

Since 2018 the Swiss Youth Ensembles have had the opportunity to resume the tours following the premier concerts thanks to the new president John Williamson and the EFG Bank International with their partners.

During the 2020 Covid pandemic the government rule for lockdown one month before the event enforced the cancellation of the Jazzaar Festival that year. However, the program that was ready and prepared was postponed for 2021 and this time presented in a virtual setting while lockdowns across the county still prevailed. The Jazzaar Festival 2022 followed suit in a similar virtual setting.