How did GRandJazzFest come about?

As a jazz enthusiasts, Audrey Sundstrom and her husband Greg Sundstrom and their friends had attended many jazz concerts and festivals, including a free festival every year in southeast Michigan. In 2012, Audrey fulfilled a longtime dream of bringing her vision of a free, family friendly, major jazz festival to Grand Rapids and West Michigan. The 2012 GRandJazzFest was the first jazz festival of its kind in the region. The festival was held Aug. 18, 2012, at Rosa Parks Circle, a central location in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., where attendees enjoyed music, supported local businesses and visited other Grand Rapids attractions.

With the success of the inaugural festival, Audrey and her team decided to expand the festival to two days — and it’s become West Michigan’s largest, free, weekend-long jazz festival! 2018 is the year of the 7th annual GRandJazzFest presented by DTE Energy Foundation.

Many thanks to DTE Energy Foundation for being our presenting sponsor since the festival’s inception. Additional thanks to all of our generous sponsors to date!

Who’s involved with GRandJazzFest?

  • Audrey Sundstrom is the founder/chair of GRandJazzFest.
  • GRandJazzFest is a community event of the nonprofit organization “GR and Jazz.”
  • GR and Jazz board members:
    • Mike Frost, Chairperson
    • Krista Koster, Treasurer
    • Steve Hilger, Artists Selection Committee Chair
    • Desiree Foster
    • Rob Brandt
    • Robert Womack
    • Christina Arnold
    • Eddie Tadlock
    • George Navarro
    • Victoria Upton
    • Isaac Norris
    • Dee Washington

The GR and Jazz Board, from left: Dee Washington, Desiree Foster, George Navarro, Eddie Tadlock, Steve Hilger, Krista Koster, Audrey Sundstrom, Rob Brandt, Victoria Upton, Robert Womack, Molly Klimas, Isaac Norris (not pictured: Chris Arnold).

GRandJazzFest successes:

  • A diverse audience of more than 10,000 over two days at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids. People of all ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic levels enjoyed two days of FREE, live jazz. They came from all over the country and Canada!
  • Local businesses reported to the Downtown Alliance excellent sales and positive economic impact.
    • Use of local suppliers for all of the festival needs: sound, printing, graphic design, event organization.
    • Enthusiastic volunteers.
    • Extensive, positive media coverage of GRandJazzFest before, during and after the festival.
  • Some of the feedback from local businesses:
    • “It was like a mini-ArtPrize day. Wonderful music, the right people/audience and a great day of business!” – Tre Cugini
    • “Our Saturday was our second busiest since we opened in May. … and we had a blast listening to the music!” – Kilwins
    • “The jazz fest was well received by our hotel guests. We need more types of these events downtown!” – The JW Marriott
    • “This was a huge success for us. We did triple what we would have normally done on a Saturday. I’m really grateful to Audrey and the organizers for their support of downtown businesses. They did a great job with media coverage and encouraged the public to support us.” – The Dog Pit


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