Birštonas international jazz festival was set up in 1980 by Zigmas Vileikis, a long lasting director of Birštonas Culture Centre. Traditionally festival takes place every two years and is organized in Birštonas Cultural Centre on the last weekend of March. It is considered to be the oldest international jazz festival in Lithuania and has even earned Birštonas resort town the title “Lithuania jazz mecca”.
Birštonas international jazz festival 2022 will take place 25-27th March 2022 and will once again welcome jazz lovers from all over the globe to spend an unforgettable weekend filled with a wide variety of jazz music genres and styles, from the well know classics to the experiments and innovations of modern jazz.
Every two years around 3000 jazz enthusiasts and fans gather in one of the cosiest Lithuania’s resort towns – Birštonas, that has a population of around 2900 people, to participate in long lasting, traditional festival events and shows that gave start to many well-known Lithuanian and international jazz musicians. It also encouraged jazz enthusiasts from Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda to organize similar events in their cities.
Even though the festival started more than 42 years ago, it is considered to be not only the oldest international jazz festival but also the most democratic jazz forum in Lithuania. It provides a stage not only to mature and famous Lithuanian jazz players but also young and upcoming artists from all over the world. The event represents a true jazz marathon with sometimes more than 20 jazz bands performing on stage during the three-day weekend. Most of the festival performers are Lithuanian jazz players or bands made with at least one Lithuanian musician, which makes Birštonas international jazz festival one of the best place to be acquainted with Lithuania’s jazz scene, which is filled with internationally recognized musicians and promising performers making their debut on the main stage. In addition, the radio and TV records of the festival are considered to be the most comprehensive collection of the Lithuanian jazz history.
Birštonas international jazz festival has an international resonance – it is celebrated throughout Europe and is attended by the organisers, producers and managers of other festivals as well as jazz critics and journalists from foreign countries. It is also well known for its Grand Prix prize, sometimes referred to as the “Lithuanian jazz Oscar”, a special award for remarkable contribution to Lithuanian jazz history. 20 Gran Prix awards, created by well-known Lithuanian artists, have already been granted to twenty outstanding performers who made history during previous jazz festivals. In 2022 the 21st Grand Prix will be given to the most deserving Lithuanian jazzman.
Another famous symbol of Birštonas international jazz festival is its merchandise created by a famous Lithuanian artist Rimvydas Kepežinskas. For each biannual festival, he designs an intricate symbol and font combination to commemorate different musical instruments used to make jazz music. Scenography is also a unique and ever-changing work of art that creates a space for jazz performances and sometimes even gives extra impulses for creativity. Therefore, you do not see many big sponsor names, as you sometimes would in other festivals, this is because festival organizers live by the notion that “stage is for art” and you can see it implemented everywhere during the Birštonas international jazz festival.