Monday, May 16th, 2011
Louis Armstrong once said ‘hot can be cool and cool can be hot, but jazz is jazz’ – and for the last 30 years, the NSW coastal town of Merimbula has been in total agreement.

The Merimbula Jazz Festival has been livening up the Sapphire Coast (far south coast) of NSW over the Queen’s Birthday weekend each year since a couple of local musicians came up with the idea during a jam session back in 1980.

This year, the 31st annual Festival will be held over the weekend of June 10-13, with 150 bands and hundreds of musicians from around Australia taking part, playing all styles of jazz: trad, ragtime, big bands, swing, mainstream, modern and funk.

“We’ve had to limit the number of bands to 150, otherwise the place would just burst at the seams,” says committee spokesman, Paul Dion, from the Down South Jazz Club (DSJC).

“Everyone seems to want to be here, which is just great. The Festival is not just about good music, it’s also very social. People make friends here, players and fans alike, and they come back year after year to catch up.

“One of our oldest performers is coming from Tasmania – he’s 82. This will be his 28th Festival. He says this is the best jazz festival in Australia which is fantastic praise – and we’re happy to accept it!”

Perhaps, given that rap, it’s not surprising to learn that the Merimbula Jazz Festival has long been known as the ‘Festival for Musicians’, but the community is also a big part of it. The celebrations include a street parade, a Jazz Breakfast, and the famous Jazz Picnic Day, plus performances across four days.
This year, there is a new initiative to spark even more community involvement – or rather the involvement of younger members of the community.

Aside from all the effort that has gone into the main event, the organising committee is also looking to nurture young musical talent by introducing ‘Jazz Quest’ which is open to all young musicians and singers up to the age of 25, living in the Bega Valley Shire.

“The DSJC committee recognises that jazz is constantly changing and growing,” says Mr Dion.

“So we welcome interest from performers of various styles, including swing, Latin, blues, and crossover styles such as jazz-funk and acid jazz. The common thread is the improvised solo.

“Jazz Quest is open to individual players or singers as well as groups of up to five members. We want each contestant to prepare three contrasting numbers of their own choice, and original material is encouraged.”

Finalists will be selected during an afternoon concert on Sunday, June 5, and they will perform again as part of the Festival before the winners are announced. First prize is a recording session and a professional photo shoot. Entries for the Quest close on May 30.

If you want more information on the Festival, phone (02) 6495 0673 or 0419 445 011 or check the website:

You can find details on accommodation around the Sapphire Coast region as well as more information on a range of activities by visiting the Sapphire Coast website ( or calling toll-free on 1800 150 457.

More media information is available from Liz Swanton, Media liaison, Sapphire Coast Tourism: 0417 232 643 or [email protected]

Pic caption: Saul Richardson and one of the bands from North Sydney Boys School, performing at the Merimbula Jazz Festival

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Liz Swanton, Media Liaison, Sapphire Coast Tourism

P: 0417 232 643


Merimbula Jazz Festival, Jazz Picnic Day, NSW, jazz festival, jazz comp, Merimbula, Sapphire Cpast



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