Selby Avenue JazzFest returns to St. Paul

Festival organizer in front of store
Selby Avenue JazzFest organizer, Mychael Wright, stands in front of Golden Thyme Coffee and Cafe, which he co-owns with his wife Stephanie Wright. He hopes to pass on the event to the next generation in the coming years.
Simone Cazares | MPR

The annual Selby Avenue JazzFest is being held on Saturday in St. Paul. Each year the event features a variety of genres from jazz, Latin, R&B, neo soul and reggae.

Longtime organizer Mychael Wright says Rondo residents look forward to hearing the music each year and coming together as a community. 

“The glue is what keeps us together and I keep the pulse of my community close,” Wright said. “We hear them throughout the year and what is going on in society and just try to be uplifting as much as we can.”

Bands include the Erica West Band, Walker West Music Academy, Pavel Jany’s World Jazz Collegium Sextet, the Minnesota State Band and the Selby Avenue Brass Band. Lynval Jackson and The International Reggae All Stars will highlight the festival at the end of the night. 

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Wright says community members play a key role in creating the lineup for the jazz festival. While he says the event features a non-traditional lineup, it’s what makes the Selby Avenue Jazz Festival unique. 

“I listen to folks from the outside and try to make them feel that they have a part in this because they do.” Wright said. “Watching the faces of the people is what is key to me backstage and if they’re smiling, nodding or enjoying the music. We try to start at a low key and build up to a crescendo to keep them coming back next year.”

Each year Wright says a big focus of the jazz festival is making sure the event addresses the community’s needs. The Selby Avenue JazzFest will also feature a family fun zone, health and wellness village and put a spotlight on local businesses from the neighborhood - who Wright says have worked hard to make Selby Avenue a destination place. 

“Selby isn’t what it used to be and it’s come a long way,” Wright said. “This gives our vendors an opportunity to have a better holiday than if they had not come together, show their wares, cook their food and have all the different personalities that we have at the jazz festival.”

Having run the Selby Avenue JazzFest for over two decades, Wright says the neighborhood’s tight-knit community has kept it going strong. He is now looking to pass on the event to the next generation and believes community members will take the lead running the jazz festival for years to come.

“I would like to see it continue for another 20-plus years and I think someone will step up,” Wright said. “What this does is keep our community relevant and in the spotlight each year.”

The Selby Avenue JazzFest takes place at the intersection of Selby and Milton Avenues.