The City of Balcones Heights has partnered with iHeartMedia to produce its 28th annual Balcones Heights Jazz Festival. This year’s festival takes place July 15 and July 29 at the Wonderland of the Americas Amphitheater.

“We are excited to feature live jazz concerts again this summer with two back-to-back July performances presenting a stellar lineup of dynamic national and local artists,” said Lorenzo Nastasi, the City of Balcones Heights’ director of economic development and public affairs.

The free festival opens with Emmy-winning bassist Tony Saunders at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Saunders earned his first two Emmys at age 14 for collaborating with his father, Bay Area keyboardist Merl Saunders, on the PBS documentary Soul Is. Though he graduated from the Conservatory of Music in San Francisco as a pianist, Saunders focused on bass for much of his 50-year career and has produced over 150 songs to date.

Saxophonist Jeff Ryan, who was named Billboard Smooth Jazz Artist of the Year in 2020, will also perform Friday. He and vocalist, trumpeter and composer Rob Zinn will headline the night. A Maryland native, Zinn has gone from performing in his high school band to being in the middle of producing his third professional album, Anything Can Happen.

The festival’s second night on July 29 opens with the Rat Pack-influenced band Johnny P & the Wiseguys. Composed of eight musicians, the group is led by vocalist and New York native Johnny Panzarella and performs both original music and arrangements of staple jazz songs. 

Headlining that night is guitarist Peter White, who is returning for his third appearance at the Balcones Heights Jazz Festival. White has released 18 albums, both solo and collaborative, in his more than four-decade career.

Serving as emcee and co-producer of the festival is David Muñoz, also known as San Antonio’s “Jazzman.” Muñoz, host of “Smooth Jazz San Antonio” on KQXT, has conducted the event since 1994. He said that his love for jazz music started after his radio director asked him to listen to some smooth jazz albums in 1975 and pick one song from each.

“I hope to reach some new people that have never been,” Muñoz said. “We always look forward to seeing new faces.”

General admission to the festival and parking is free, and food and drink vendors will be on site. Hillside seating around the amphitheater is on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Genevieve Adame is a Scripps Howard Foundation Emerging Journalist intern and a rising senior at Ronald Reagan High School in San Antonio.