The Allegheny Jazz Party’s history goes all the way back to Conneaut Lake and the 1st Annual Conneaut Lake Jazz Festival in 1982. Jazz promoter Joe Boughton from Meadville, PA, was the owner of the JUMP record label. He had a long roster of top notch artists, both new and established, and brought them all together once a year for a weekend of traditional jazz. Joe’s focus was on the great jazz tunes, whether well known or seldom played. He programmed his roster of musicians in large ensembles and small groups, and insisted that everyone stick to traditional, straight ahead performances of the best music.
Over the years, his jazz party and the other performances he produced in Meadville grew in popularity. Once the hotel at Conneaut Lake was no longer in use, the party moved to the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, NY, in 1997. Joe’s Allegheny Jazz Society produced the party, known as Jazz at Chautauqua, until his death in 2010, playing to sold out audiences year after year.
During Joe’s last years, Nancy Hancock Griffith, a musician and lawyer from Cleveland, Ohio, and a huge fan of the party, started helping Joe with the logistics, especially booking the musicians and assisting with the program. After Joe’s death, the Chautauqua Institution in western New York State took over Jazz at Chautauqua as part of their off-season programming, and hired Nancy as its music director.
Nancy is a native Clevelander and has been involved in music and the arts all her life. She plays piano and woodwinds, but has an undergraduate degree in voice from Concordia University in Ann Arbor. After music school, Nancy followed in her father’s footsteps and attended law school at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, graduating summa cum laude, Order of the Coif. She practiced corporate law for several years before joining the fundraising staff of The Cleveland Orchestra, where she served as Director of Planned Gift and Endowment Fundraising. After Nancy left the Orchestra, she began her own firm in Cleveland, BauerGriffith, LLC, representing a wide variety of nonprofit organizations, including some of Cleveland’s largest and most influential arts organizations.
After the 2013 party, the 16th Annual Jazz at Chautauqua, the Chautauqua Institution made some changes to its off-season priorities, and Jazz at Chautauqua found itself without a home. Unwilling to let Joe’s legacy fade away, Nancy and her mother, Kathy Hancock, a successful entrepreneur, turned their talents to moving the party to Cleveland, Ohio.
For fans of the old Jazz at Chautauqua, there will be a few changes to the weekend, but very little difference in what will happen on stage. Nancy and Kathy remain committed to continuing Joe Boughton’s tradition of great tunes, played by the country’s best traditional jazz artists in a setting that allows musicians and attendees to mingle and talk about their favorite kind of music.
We remain very excited for the prospects for the party, and hope to attract new friends and supporters in our new home, as well as staying in touch with all of the patrons who made this party so successful for so many years.