help us meet our goal
Welcome to the 21st Anniversary of the Clarissa Street Reunion festival—a festival celebrating the musical and cultural history of Clarissa Street.
Founded in 1995 by Rochester locals Ron Houston, Hubert (Jiggy) Jeffries, Susie Boyd, Helen Brown, Jocqualene Banks, and Lonnie Davis—who were joined soon after by John Ashford, Joan Coles Howard, Alton Owens, Joyce Allen, and Gloria Winston Al-Sarag—the first festival was held on Saturday, August 24th, 1996. More than 10,000 people attended the one-day festival, celebrating and honoring 'Hometown Music Hero' Roy McCurdy, one of the great jazz drummers and headliner Brother Jack McDuff, a renowned jazz organist.
Clarissa Street, located in Cornhill—one of the oldest residential neighborhoods in Rochester and once known as the 3rd Ward—is a street with a rich history going back to the year 1810, when freed black slaves began to settle in Western New York State. One of the first African-American neighborhoods was located here in Rochester and later became the home of Rev. Thomas James, who founded the 'Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church'.
The church became a hub for the Underground Railroad, home to Frederick Douglass' Abolitionist newspaper—The North Star—and home to the women's Suffragist Movement.
By the 1950's, Clarissa Street had grown into a robust commercial corridor and was known as 'Rochester's Broadway', a melting pot of people from varied backgrounds—African American, Irish, Jewish, Italian, among others. It grew into a vibrant neighborhood with a wide range of businesses and organizations, one of which was the legendary Pythodd Room, a center for the neighborhood’s rich musical history and an early stop on the Chittlin Circuit, featuring none other than jazz legends Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jimmy Smith, Sarah Vaughn, Ron Carter, Cannonball Adderly, George Benson, hometown talent Chuck and Gab Mangione, Roy McCurdy, Pee Wee Ellis, to name just a few.
Watch the story behind 'the Clarissa Street Reunion' Here.
As one of Rochester's most popular events—hosted in one of the nation's most historic African-American communities no less—the current Clarissa Street Reunion Committee is aiming to raise $50,000.
The money raised will help increase the annual scholarship award to $5,000 for college-bound adolescents and showcase top-tier artists to not only make this a memorable event, but to draw more people and raise awareness of the street’s historical significance.
It will facilitate an increase in youth engagement, musical creativity, spoken word traditions, as well as step dance performances. Most importantly, donations will result in a 'Vision Fund' in support of the committee's proposal for a revitalized Clarissa Street.
Your donation will provide seed money for the Reunion Committee's 'Vision Fund' for the building of the "Pythodd Room" amphitheater, serving as a tribute to the music legacy of Clarissa Street, and hosting a wide-range of activities and performance arts.
Your financial support will help make this campaign a success.
We invite you to join us on August 20 and celebrate "Rochester's Broadway''.
For more information click here.