La Crosse Jazz Orchestra celebrates 45 years of free Jazz in the Park


The La Crosse Jazz Orchestra, western Wisconsin’s premier big band, presents its 45th season of free Jazz in the Park concerts in 2019. That’s a reason to celebrate for many in the community.

“For 45 years, Jazz in the Park has been one of the coolest ways to spend a Sunday evening,” says La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat. “The wonderful and talented musicians, the beautiful setting at Riverside Park and the sense of community makes this a true celebration of La Crosse.”

Terry Bauer, founder of Valley View Rotary’s Moon Tunes concert series, agrees.

“We are blessed to live in a city that has the La Crosse Jazz Orchestra,” he says. “Their music brings joy to all and that makes our community a better place to call home.”


More guest artists booked for Jazz in the Park in 2019

This year, the group has booked more guest artists than ever before, says director Greg Balfany. 

“We’re excited to bring in three outstanding musicians from around the country,” he says. “Michael B. Nelson was a soloist with Prince and the JazzMN Orchestra. L.A. saxophonist Tom Luer tours with John Beasley’s Monk’estra and records with Kurt Elling and many others, and Debbie O’Keefe is a standout Twin Cities vocalist featured with the Blue Eyes Big Band.”

Nelson is the guest artist for the June 16 Jazz in the Park concert, with O’Keefe appearing July 14, and Luer on July 21.


Moon Tunes, street dances and emerging young local jazz musicians

Local students also play a role. The Coulee Region All Stars High School Big Band, directed by Jim Knutson, will perform at the July 21 Jazz in the Park concert.

LJO will also share the bill with popular local reggae band TUGG at a Moon Tunes concert in Riverside Park on June 20, and provide dance music for the Caledonia Street Block Party on June 1.

 “For 45 years our mission has been to promote, preserve and forward the creation of jazz music through free live performances available to everyone in our area,” Balfany says. “As a nonprofit group, we’ve been supported by private donations and the hard work of numerous volunteers. Starting this year, we’ve also been added as a fund of the La Crosse Community Foundation, which will help us grow for our next 45 years.”


2019 summer concert season

  • Saturday, June 1 – Caledonia Street Block Party on La Crosse’s North Side, 6 p.m. Rain site: Pearl Street Brewery
  • Sunday, June 16 – Jazz In The Park with guest artist, Prince music director/trombonist Michael B. Nelson, Riverside Park, 7 p.m. Rain site: Cavalier Theater
  • Thursday, June 20 – Moon Tunes featuring LJO and TUGG, Riverside Park, 5 p.m. Rain site: Cavalier Theater
  • Sunday, July 14 – Jazz In The Park with guest artist, Twin Cities vocalist Debbie O'Keefe, Riverside Park, 7 p.m. Rain site: Cavalier Theater
  • Sunday, July 21 – Jazz In The Park with guest artist, L.A. saxophonist Tom Luer, Riverside Park, 7 p.m. Rain site: Cavalier Theater


Riverside Park | Root Note | Caledonia Street Block Party | Cavalier Theater | Pearl Street Brewery 


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