Summer Jazz Celebration brings local, big-city musicians together

This is part of a weekly series that highlights a grant provided by the Foundation.

Featured artist Wycliff Gordon teaches a master class at last year's Summer Jazz Celebration. This year's event will take place Friday, July 22, and Satuday, July 23, in historic Bellefonte.

Though the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and the People’s Choice Festival have come and gone, Centre County’s high-profile arts events aren’t over yet.

This Friday, July 22, and Saturday, July 23, the 7th Annual JazzPA Summer Jazz Celebration, which received a $2,500 grant from the Centre County Community Foundation, will take place in historic Bellefonte. Organizers expect about 2,000 people to attend the festival, which combines performances by talented locals with performances by big-city Jazz musicians.

“It’s really a celebration of all the great Jazz that goes on in the area, at a student and also at a professional level,” said JazzPA President Catherine Dupuis. “And that was the reason the festival was formed: to create a showcase for all those musicians. It’s an opportunity for them to get together and celebrate what they do.”

One of Dupuis’ goals is to develop more of an appreciation for Jazz among locals.

Students from Bellefonte Senior High School perform at last year's Summer Jazz Celebration. This year's event will take place Friday, July 22, and Satuday, July 23, in historic Bellefonte.

“So many people think they know what Jazz is. For a lot of people that means they like it and for some people that means they say they don’t like it,” Dupuis said. “They may have said before the festival that they didn’t like it. But they’ll come here and say “oh, but I like that.’ ”

Making jazz more accessible to Central Pennsylvanians was the dream of local saxophonist Joe Alessandro.

“He wanted to showcase the local musicians and give them a taste of what was happening in New York,” Dupuis said.

In 2005, Alessandro, Dupuis and others made that dream happen with a 1-day Jazz event, which has since morphed into the 2-day Summer Jazz Celebration which includes four venues: the national headquarters of the American Philatelic Society (at the Match Factory), the Gazebo in Tallyrand Park, an outdoor stage on High Street (at the corner of Spring St.) and Centre Crest. Local restaurants will also provide live music during the evenings.

Alessandro has since passed away, but Dupuis said his legacy continues through the festival.

This year’s featured artists, from New York City, are trumpeter/cornetist Warren Vache, and The Russ Kassoff Trio with Jay Anderson on bass and Dennis Mackrel on drums.

Most of the performances at the event, which feature a variety of musicians, including high school band members and local professionals, such as Dupuis herself, are free, including a master class on Saturday by Vache. Just two events require a ticket: Zeropoint on Friday ($5) and the Saturday evening concert featuring the guest artists ($15).

Dupuis said people who attend the festival are impressed by its relaxed atmosphere, its setting and the level of talent of its performers.

Zeropoint performs at last year's Summer Jazz Festival. This year's event will take place Friday, July 22, and Satuday, July 23, in historic Bellefonte.

“They just love being in Bellefonte. They love being outdoors. They love Tallyrand Park. They love these wonderful rooms in the old Match Factory,” she said. “But of course folks also love the music. One featured musician asked me ‘How can such a tiny little place have so many really gifted musicians?’ ”

You may think you don’t like Jazz – but the music you do like is probably derived from it, Dupuis said.

“Most of the music we all love comes from Jazz and Blues. Rock, Soul, Hip Hop,” she said. “It all comes from Jazz and Blues. Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Sting, Michael Jackson. It all comes out of Jazz.”

For a full schedule of JazzPA’s 2011 Summer Jazz Celebration, click here

-Erin

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