Get ready to roar with joy as the Joye in Aiken festival returns.
Offering a variety of events March 3-10, the 2023 Joy in Aiken marks the 15th year of the festival and outreach program.
Joye in Aiken, founded in 2008 as a partnership between the City of Aiken and The Juilliard School in New York, annually presents a week of festivities in the month of March that includes top-tier artists in music, dance and sometimes theater.
Since its inception, the festival has brought more than 600 artists to Aiken — mostly faculty, students and alumni from Juilliard, the world’s most prestigious arts conservatory. In addition to performing for the public, the artists held events to reach more than 46,000 local students.
Sandra Field, president of Joye in Aiken, said the organization hopes to include the entire community in its 15th anniversary celebration. The first event, the New Orleans-Style Funeral Parade on March 2, is designed to do just that.
“Joy in Aiken is for everyone, because it’s the community that made it happen all these years,” Field said. “So we’re going to start the celebration with something that everyone can participate in. It’s a fun family event, with a horse-drawn caisson and a jazz band led by one of the Juilliard-trained musicians, and lots of beads and masks and costumes. We want the whole community to come and walk with us on the parade route.”
The main festival opens March 3 with a vocal show from Jazz at Lincoln Center. Titled “Songs We Love,” the show features three singers and an all-star band, and focuses on the music of jazz greats including Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland.
The vocal jazz theme continues March 4 with Joy of Jazz at The Willcox. The event kicks off with a Gospel Brunch featuring three musicians and trumpeter Alphonso Horne in the afternoon, and media executive Jumaane Smith in the evening. Smith’s resume includes 15 years as a trumpeter and singer with Michael Bublé, as well as performances on five Grammy-winning records, two Emmy-nominated television shows and a performance at the Grammy Awards with Stevie Wonder.
On March 7, the festival program goes into the classics and beyond with Sybarite5, a dynamic young string ensemble. Winners of the prestigious Concert Artists Guild competition, the quintet released an album that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Traditional Classical Chart. Their far-reaching repertoire includes artists as diverse as Radiohead, Piazzola and Pete Seeger.
On March 9 at noon, the piano-clarinet duo of Jeremy Jordan and Mark Dover will perform a free concert as part of First Presbyterian’s Sanctuary Concert Series.
That evening, acclaimed singer, songwriter and four-time Grammy winner Sarah Jarosz is joined by her frequent piano partner, pianist/accordionist/vocalist Sam Reider.
The festival comes to a close on March 10 with actress and singer Rachel Bay Jones performing in the Finale Concert. The recipient of Emmy, Tony and Grammy awards, Jones was also honored as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as Evan Hansen’s mother in the original production of “Dear Evan Hansen.” He also had roles in “Young Sheldon,” “Modern Family,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Good Doctor.”
“This year we have a big Broadway star, Rachel Bay Jones, conducting a voice class,” Field said. “Four-time Grammy winner Sarah Jarosz will be teaching a class at LBC Middle School and presenting our Young People’s Concert. Sybarite5, one of the most beloved string ensembles in the country, will be performing with the Aiken Youth Orchestra. And hundreds of other children will be attending our Kidz Bop concerts, piano class master, school performances, jazz master classes and Summer Jazz Camp.
Field said Joye’s heartwarming experiences in Aiken.
“In 15 years, we did 239 events in 497 schools for 46,456 children,” he said. “It is wonderful to think about the wonderful experiences that all the students have had with the musicians. That’s the best reason we can think of to celebrate. “
Admission ticket sales begin February 1. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit joyeinaiken.com.