Years ago, musician Peggy Stern created the Wall Street Jazz Festival in Kingston, New York. When she relocated to Austin a few years ago, Stern created Lulu Fest, a similar but different musical festival. Like the Wall Street Festival, Lulu celebrates female bandleaders, but unlike the earlier fest, and in keeping with her new town's wider-ranging musical tastes, Lulu embraces not just jazz but all sorts of music.
"Lulu Fest has broad musical appeal... because we think that's the best way into the audience here in Austin," says Stern. "But all of the sets do contain a component of improvisation, which is what we consider jazz."
One of the goals of the festival is to celebrate female bandleaders, but that doesn't mean it's a women-only event.
"It's not a women's festival -- there's plenty of men that get to play," says Stern. "But the women control what music is being presented, and they're allowed to hire whomever they want as leaders. But they're in control of what happens on the bandstand."
It's a one-day festival, held on April 14, with concerts running from 5:00 pm until 10:00 (performers include Stern herself along with Allison Miller, Emily Gimble, Sara Caswell, Suzi Stern, and Leeann Atherton). And earlier in the day, Lulu Fest hosts several workshops in piano, violin, drums, and vocals, meant to inspire a new generation of musicians.
"[The workshops are for] anybody wanting to know anything about those instruments," Stern says. "And these are instruments that lead to a master class... where everyone gets to play. It's an opportunity for the younger women, and even for the older women, to see strong women at work."