Founded in the fall of 2015 in the medieval Tuscan village of Arcidosso, Italy, by Matt Pickart, Thomas Fortmann, and Helmut Lipsky, Clazz International Music Festival began as an opportunity to teach classically trained musicians, specifically string players, how to improvise through the pedagogical ideals of jazz and musical languages from other cultures.. After initial success with a small but mighty group in 2016, Clazz expanded the following year to offer two sessions: Jazz and Classical. The name of Clazz itself of course comes from the merging (or intersection) of classical and jazz idioms. Summers 2017 and 2018 featured the two sessions. During this time the reputation and the numbers of the festival grew.
In 2019, Clazz decided to integrate classical and jazz all at one festival, while elongating the number of days to allow students to soak in as much as they could. After a very successful 4th summer, we were so excited to present our fifth anniversary in 2020, which ended up getting canceled due to complications of the raging pandemic. We are now preparing to have our fifth anniversary July 24-August 7, 2021, in person or online if needed.
Boasting a distinguished and diverse concert series in the local 18th century theater and 12th century churches, Clazz hosts faculty artists who are at the top of their field; including Grammy winners and nominees, major orchestral principals, top conservatory and university professors, soloists, and recording artists.
Over the first four summers, hundreds of students have attended Clazz from twelve different countries: United States, Canada, Ecuador, China, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and France. Clazz has attracted professionals from the likes of San Francisco Symphony, Les Violons du Roy, Strasbourg Philarmonic, Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic, and Cirque de Soleil as students with a desire to expand their skillsets. Clazz alumni have also hailed from renowned institutions such as the San Juan Conservatory, Conservatorio di Milano, Interlochen Arts Academy, Manhattan School of Music, McGill University, Shanghai Conservatory, University of Houston, Berklee College of Music, Duquesne University, the Hart School, Indiana University, University of Tennessee, Conservatoire de Montréal, and Cleveland Institute of Music.
In 2017, the festival established the Clazz Quartet, faculty string quartet in residence, and in 2018 we began our special guest artist series which has included Quartet San Francisco (2018) and Joshua Roman (2019.) This coming summer, we will also begin a five day Clazz String Intensive through Webster University in St. Louis.