SummerStage Must-See Highlights

Christina Knight | June 9, 2022

An outdoor covered stage with professional lighting and tight crowd of standing audience, shot from high angle

The City Parks Foundation festival SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, NYC. Photo Melissa Blitz

Updated June 28, 2002

Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage, the celebrated New York City outdoor festival, kicks off its 2022 season on Saturday, June 11. The lineup could fill nearly every day of your summer calendar and will span music genres and art forms. The festival even encourages you to exercise your own creativity in free workshops before some events.

Get out your favorite transit app to discover nearly 90 shows held in parks across New York City’s five boroughs, including performances at the festival’s newly renovated Central Park venue Rumsey Playfield. The 2022 season of SummerStage includes the 30th anniversary of the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, a three-day festival (August 26-28) in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park and the East Village’s Tompkins Square Park. Read on for the opening concert June 11 and more artist events coming up.

Herbie Hancock Free Concert Kick-Off

The SummerStage festival opens Saturday, June 11, 7-10 p.m with a musician and composer who has won not only dozens of Grammy Awards, but an Oscar as well. Legendary and innovative pianist Herbie Hancock will give a free concert at Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield, the main base of the festival. Jazz fans admire Hancock’s work with Miles Davis’ quintet and his own jazz standards like “Cantaloupe Island”.  Electronic music followers know Hancock’s “Rockit” was the rare instrumental hit on MTV, complete with a mesmerizingly eerie video. The breadth of Herbie Hancock’s appeal is a perfect example of what SummerStage aims for: bringing diverse New Yorkers together to witness world-class artists, live. The festival artists are masters of their genres, whether legends or newcomers who are taking a scene by storm.

The kick off concert will begin with a set by DJ Pete Rock, the famous hip-hop producer who grew up in the Bronx and Mount Vernon. Herbie Hancock will be joined on stage by trumpeter Keyyon Harold, active in the jazz, hip-hop, and R&B scenes and featured on recordings with Common, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, 50 Cent, Mac Miller, and Mary J. Blige, among others. The performance will livestream for a one-time remote viewing opportunity for people who can’t make it in-person. See livestream festival events at

Big Name Events

Sunlight streaks over a small temporary stage set outdoors. In foreground are many people seated in folding chairs or chairs they brought

Audience at Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, a City Parks Foundation event. Photo: Mark Doyle

Artist featured in the festival come from New York, all over the United States and around the world, and represent the top of their fields. Among the big names called out in the SummerStage official announcement are Caribou, Waxahatchee, MC Solaar, Carla Morrison, Ney Matogrosso, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Patrick Watson, Ana Tijoux and Tony Vega. With the exception of ticketed benefit concerts, all events will be free and open to the public.

“Parks have always been neighborhood gathering spaces, but the pandemic brought to light just how absolutely critical parks are to our city’s health,” Heather Lubov, City Parks Foundation’s executive director, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be able to bring neighbors together in their parks to enjoy a diverse, representative line-up that is reflective of our city’s rich cultural fabric.”

Two local legends who recently passed will be honored with special performances. Cultural critic and musician Greg Tate will be paid tribute in an ensemble evening including groups he founded, Burnt Sugar/Danz and Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber, on Saturday, August 20, 6-9 p.m. in Harlem.

Singer Jessie Lee Daniels, a founding member of the Staten Island-based R&B group Force M.D.’s, will be honored by the group’s founding members and friends on Sunday, August 7, 4-7 p.m. on Staten Island.

Benefit Concerts

SummerStage benefit concerts are paid, ticked events that help fund the festival itself. This summer’s benefits include Modest Mouse, Belle & Sebastian, Fitz and The Tantrums, George Clinton, Trombone Shorty and more. Tickets generally range $65-125.

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SummerStage and The WNET Group

One of SummerStage’s 2022 official media partners is The WNET Group, parent company of THIRTEEN – America’s flagship PBS station – and ALL ARTS, the arts and culture media provider. Both SummerStage and The WNET Group are nonprofits that make it their purpose to share arts and culture with their audiences. ALL ARTS will co-present a performance on July 15 at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, featuring Nai Ni Chen Dance Company and Les Ballet Afrik – led by ballroom legend Omari Wiles. You can stream a full dance episode on ALL ARTS featuring Les Ballet Afrik and its creative process.

A full lineup of free programming and tickets for benefit concerts can be found on the SummerStage site. Select shows will be livestreamed.