Shelly Watson, a singer who performed virtually during the 2020 Juneau Jazz & Classics festival, is scheduled to perform everything from opera at Lemon Creek Correctional Center to a burlesque show at Crystal Saloon during this fall’s JJ&C. (Courtesy photo)

Shelly Watson, a singer who performed virtually during the 2020 Juneau Jazz & Classics festival, is scheduled to perform everything from opera at Lemon Creek Correctional Center to a burlesque show at Crystal Saloon during this fall’s JJ&C. (Courtesy photo)

School, church and saloon fall together at JJC

Colorful autumn lineup features a rock string trio and an opera/burlesque mastro

Showcasing the variety of this year’s Juneau Jazz & Classics fall music festival is as simple as noting one of the featured artists is equally in harmony with an opera glass in a prison or a Fireball shot in a saloon.

Shelly Watson, scheduled to perform everything from opera to family-friendly variety to barroom burlesque, is among the five bands and individual musicians scheduled to perform at the festival between Sept. 19-24. Sandy Fortier, the festival’s director, said Watson and multi-genre pianist Matt Herskowitz both proved popular when they participated virtually in the event in 2020 due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everybody loved them so we wanted to bring them up here in person,” Fortier said.

The fall event will also revisit a much-favored venue for what Fortier called “our big, big, big concert,” with the rock string trio (yes, you read that correctly) Simply Three performing works ranging from Adele to Gershwin to Coldplay to Michael Jackson at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé.

“We haven’t been there in a long time so we’re hoping to fill it up,” she said.

A “new” venue also on the highlight list is Crystal Saloon, which hosted some of its first performances since the historic establishment reopened in a new location during the spring JJ&C. Watson is scheduled to perform cabaret and burlesque shows there, and Fortier said festival organizers are also considering scheduling free happy hour performances by various musicians.

Watson will also perform a free family concert at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library — “she’ll probably do a little bit of everything she knows,” Fortier said — and for inmates at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

“She told me she has a personal connection with her family with incarceration,” Fortier said.

The prison performance will be among the many community appearances and workshops by festival artists at schools and with community groups that are a regular part of the festival, she said.

Most of the musicians are being brought to the festival by Zuill Bailey, a Grammy-winning cellist who is the festival’s artistic director.

“He’s played with a lot of these musicians before,” Fortier said.

Among the collaborations Bailey is planning during the festival is a concert with Herskowitz at Chapel By The Lake.

“We wanted a classical concert there because it has that beautiful background,” Fortier said.

The other featured musician is Lara St. John, a Canadian violinist whose Mozart recording won a Juno Award (essentially a Canadian Grammy) in 2011 and whose 2016 album of reimagined folk music earned a five-star review from All About Jazz.

Tickets for the just-announced lineup, which is still being finalized with the concert schedule still pending, are scheduled to go on sale at the end of July. Under a new ticketing system donors to JJ&C will get the first opportunity to buy tickets, with the general public able to buy them about a week later.

Fortier said while shows at smaller venues may sell out quickly, she doesn’t expect any to do so during the donor-only sales. She estimates tickets to most shows will be about $40, with a “Puttin’ On The Ritz” event costing more because it’s catered and the Crystal Saloon shows costing less due to a cover charge to get into the venue.

Volunteers are again being sought for both the festival and advance work such as putting up posters around town, she said.

While the COVID-19 pandemic caused chaos the past couple of years, and a number of on-the-fly arrangements were necessary this spring due to travel and other snafus, Fortier said “I would say we’re about 95% set” in terms of planning the fall festival. The primary remaining task is determining who’s performing on what days.

“It seems like everyone’s out enjoying their summer so it’s taking longer to get everything set,” she said.

Contact Mark Sabbatini at

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