Montavilla hosts jazz festival

See why sizzling summer temperatures weren’t the only thing heating up the theater at Milepost 5

Just outside the Milepost 5 theater, during the inaugural Montavilla Jazz Festival, Jodi Cullen, Laura Cunard, and Fritz Hirsch are checking in patrons.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The first-ever Montavilla Jazz Festival brought out the best of the genre’s local talent on the weekend of August 16 and 17, as music fans made their way to the Milepost 5 creative community at 900 NE 81st Avenue.

The festival presented eight acts on Saturday, August 16, from 2:00 p.m. – ending up at 1:30 a.m. with an “after hours jam session at East Glisan Pizza Lounge. On Sunday, six acts musically entertained until about 9:30 p.m.

The patrons enjoy the performance of jazz group Trio Flux in the Milepost 5 Theater.

The festival was the result of neighbors Aaron Hayman, Fritz Hirsch, and Ryan Meagher, said the weekend-long event’s Director of Development Neil Mattson, moments after finishing his set in the Milepost 5 Theater with his own group, Trio Flux.

“The Festival Director, Fritz Hirsch, is also the Montavilla Neighborhood Association Chair,” Mattson told East Portland News. “Hirsch and Aaron Hayman, Festival Art Director, first came up with the idea of having a jazz festival in the Montavilla neighborhood some three years ago.

“Hirsch’s organizational skills and neighborhood connections made for a very cohesive team environment and a very focused project-oriented team,” Mattson commended.

Their goals for the festival were to:

  • Showcase the new sound of Portland jazz,
  • Build and celebrate community as they bring to life a new music festival,
  • Pay musicians a living wage,
  • Present music to the public at an affordable price, and
  • Promote the Montavilla neighborhood as a destination for experiencing new forms of arts and culture.


Jazz guitarist and Montavilla Jazz Festival Operations Director Ryan Meagher (pronounced Marr) and Director of Development Neil Mattson (also guitarist, composer and music educator at Montavilla Guitar Studio) say they’re pleased by the new festival’s community acceptance.

Also a Montavilla resident and a musician, as the festival’s Director of Development, Mattson courted all the sponsors and businesses in the neighborhood, ending up with an impressive roster of more than 30 local businesses who invested resources and funding into the event.

Operations Director Ryan Meagher, of the Portland Jazz Composers’ Ensemble, “pretty much single-handedly brought together the roster of bands,” extolled Mattson.

In total, about 40 volunteers helped out during the festival.

Heating up the evening, the band with energetic-yet-cool music is Blue Cranes.

After making sure the next act was ready to play, Festival Director Fritz Hirsch took a moment to say the festival is important to the mission of the Montavilla Neighborhood Association. “Overall the mission of our association is to enrich and support the lives of its residents. And also, to facilitate residents helping themselves to create a better environment.

“So, this means it often gives people the opportunity to come up with ideas for what they believe will help our neighborhood – and then do it,” Hirsch added. That’s what you have here; a fantastic two-day music event that is enriching and benefiting the neighborhood.”

St. Johns resident Sam Hallam takes a turn volunteering at the merchandise table.

The festival also helps their outer East Portland businesses district, because it brings people who are patronizing their restaurants for food and beverages, he added.

“More than half of our 40 volunteers live in the neighborhood,” Hirsch observed. “This event is truly produced by, and for, and is uplifting, the neighborhood.”

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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