Ann Arbor's Edgefest music festival reaches new audiences with all-virtual, six-month event

Edgefest, the long-running avant-garde and improvisational jazz festival produced by Kerrytown Concert House, is reaching new national audiences after going virtual for 2020.


Boasting a brass-centric theme, this year's event is billed as "Edgefest 2020: Partial to the Edge." Now in its 24th year, the event normally would have been a live, four-day festival featuring about four different acts each night. This year, COVID-19 health and safety concerns prompted organizers to temporarily reinvent Edgefest into an online festival that started last month and will run until March 2021. Each month will feature a single concert with one or two performances, primarily from single artists or duos.


Last month, the festival kicked off its first installment with an opening set by Detroit artists Skeeter Shelton and Djallo Djakate, followed by a performance by the brass ensemble Purple Gums.


"We've been kind of inventing as we go along during these tough times, but it seems to be working out really well and is keeping the art vital," says Deanna Relyea, Edgefest's artistic director. "We had about 80 to 90 people join in on the first concert, which is a testament both to the artists and the audience."


Relyea reports that there were a number of attendees from across the country and that "it's truly ironic" that scaling down the event seems to be garnering more national interest and exposure. She's hoping that the festival will continue to gather steam as it unfolds and that people will consider supporting the free event by making a financial donation.


"We didn't want to turn anyone away during these times because of money. It's already tough enough these days," Relyea explains. "At the same time, there’s a whole cadre of local artists who are really struggling. Contributions will support them and also keep Kerrytown Concert House open."


Anyone who missed Edgefest's October concert can still enjoy it online, either through the venue's YouTube channel or website. The latter also has a link to a full festival schedule and lineup.


Relyea is especially excited about this month's upcoming concert on Nov. 20, featuring trombonist Steve Swell and baritone saxophonist Dave Sewelson. Opening the night will be "Detroit's rising stars," baritone saxophonist Kaleigh Wilder and Everett Reid on drums.


"I've heard so many incredible things about the first concert that I'm encouraging people not to miss the next one," she says.

For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at


Photo courtesy of Kerrytown Concert House.

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