Chelsea Lafayette is a Vermonter by way of New Orleans. Ten years ago, after attending college in Louisiana, she followed her now-spouse north. And on her first night in Burlington, the neon marquee of the iconic Flynn Theater ensured she'd never look back.
Recently, Lafayette, the new managing director of the 34-year-old Burlington Discover Jazz Fest, spoke to VPR. She explained that the Flynn sign back in 2007 happened to be announcing the night's lineup for the 10-day citywide musical festival.
"I saw the signs on the marquee. I thought, 'What is this place?!' And as soon as I learned about it, I thought, I want to work there one day," Lafayette recalls. "I actually ended up going home that night to see if the Flynn was hiring. And it happened that they were and unlike many of my friends who were looking for jobs in the arts at that time, I actually got one, right out of college."
She spent seven years at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, handling artists' contracts and working for years managing event operations. This is her first year serving as the music festival's managing director.
This year, Lafayette said they are thrilled to have booked a long-sought-after performer, Kamasi Washington, along with dozens of other stellar musicians. She said event-goers can expect some surprises this year, too.
"We're working with the City of Burlington to do some pop-up style performances." Lafayette said, "When you have a festival that's 34 years old, finding new and different ways to kind of re-energize and do different things is a challenge and I feel like we've met that challenge this year."
The Burlington Discover Jazz Fest is June 1 through June 10 at various venues all over the city. Find the full program schedule here.