Joining together in an unprecedented partnership, the Appalachian Theater of the High Country, Boone Sunrise Rotary and the Appalachian State University Jazz Studies Program proudly announce the first High Country Jazz Festival with nearly a dozen free and paid events at 10 different locations in Boone and Blowing Rock from June 8-12. Tickets go on sale to the public at 11 a.m. Thursday, April 7.
The High Country Jazz Festival is a collaborative project that aims to “host exceptional and engaging jazz experiences for local residents and regional audiences with proceeds to support the arts, educational and civic programs that enrich our High Country home”.
Headlining performances by Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra and New York Voices take place in the newly renovated Appalachian Theater with the Stephen Gordon Trio performing outdoors in a tent at the Chetola Resort. Other festival-affiliated events will be hosted by the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, Casa Rustica, High Country Jazz Society, Lost Province, Ransom Pub and the Town of Boone. Events include outdoor concerts, late-night jams, jazz lunches, and a popular jazz-themed movie.
Appalachian State University professor Todd Wright, known throughout the region as “the ambassador of jazz in western North Carolina,” said he conceived the idea of a jazz festival in 1983 while attending an outdoor summer concert in Boone by the North Carolina Symphony. .
Wright is in his 31st year at the university and leads their acclaimed Jazz Studies program.
“We’ve got the perfect location here in the High Country, a perfect time of year with perfect weather and a perfect anchor spot in the Appalachian theatre,” said Wright, who added that “the excitement and community involvement are exhilarating.”
Individual event sponsors include Allen Wealth Management, Blue Ridge Energy, Creekside Electronics, Footsloggers, Maureen and David Moses, and Rosemyr Corporation. Additional support is provided by Chetola Resort, Deal Law Firm, Moseley & Smith, LLP, Julie & Bob Gates, Grandfather Winery, New River Power & Light, Town of Boone, Valle Crucis Conference Center and other generous individual donors.
When asked why they support this new High Country initiative, former Boone Sunrise Rotary President Lane Robinson of Creekside Electronics said, “Jazz is a uniquely American tradition that brings people together. With the things that divide, I want to support something that unites us.
Patron Jonathan Allen added that “this jazz festival, and the arts in general, are worth our financial investment because of the huge dividends they pay in the quality of life that makes our region so vibrant.”
The inaugural High Country Jazz Festival kicks off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8, with a public screening of MGM’s classic 1956 romantic musical comedy film “High Society” at the Appalachian Theater. This musical remake of Philip Barry’s play, “The Philadelphia Story”, stars Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and the incomparable jazz legend Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong and his all-star band.
This event is followed by two free intimate jazz showcases. From 1-4 p.m. on Thursday, June 9, Afternoon Jazz with the Swing Guitars will take place in Lost Province, with a 6-9 p.m. “jazz dinner” at Casa Rustica featuring local jazz legends Todd Wright and Andy Page. Advance reservations are suggested as places are limited.
On Friday, June 10, the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum will host a talk at 11 a.m. called “Personalities in Jazz: A North Carolina Connection,” free for BRAHM members and $8 for the public. The Town of Boone is hosting a free event at 5:30 p.m. at the Jones House in Boone featuring the Todd Wright Jazz All-Stars featuring musicians Todd Wright on saxophone, Rick Simerly on trombone, Steve Davidowski on keyboard, Andy Page on guitar, Adam Booker on bass and Rick Dilling on drums.
The first headlining event is Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Appalachian Theater when New York Voices take the stage at the historic venue. According to Boston Herald, “New York Voices lives up to its reputation as the most exciting vocal ensemble in jazz today…gathering voices of such quality in a band is rare enough, but the real trick of New York Voices is knowing how they fit in…” Tickets are $34.
Saturday, June 11 brings together budding professional artists in the morning and established jazz legends in the evening. It begins from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. when students from Appalachian State University’s Jazz Studies program perform popular works for free under the historic art deco marquee of the Appalachian Theater.
At 7:30 p.m., a festival highlight takes place inside the App Theater when Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra make their High Country debut.
Among their many accolades is a stellar review from Downbeat magazine who said, “Both of Delfeayo Marsalis’ New Orleans-based Uptown Jazz Orchestra, [compact disc] releases… rank among the strongest big band records of the last 10 years. Tickets are $35 and $42.
Jazz lovers and musicians from home and abroad will gather at the Ransom Pub on King Street in Boone for a late-night jam session from 10 p.m. to midnight. This will be your chance to enjoy your favorite drink while listening to emerging talent and seasoned veterans celebrate this beloved art form. This event is free.
Sunday’s featured event takes place outdoors at Blowing Rock from 5-7 p.m., when Chetola Resort hosts the High Country Jazz Society performance of the famed Stephen Gordon Trio. Gordon is originally from Boone and, according to jazz drummer and vibraphonist Jason Marsalis, “Stephen Gordon is a musician who believes in music. Whether on piano or drums, he always plays big ideas while constantly supporting the music in the best possible way. Single tickets are $25.
The public are invited to stay after the closing concert of the High Country Jazz Festival for the free Jazz Nightcap event in Chetola from 7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. with Shane Chalke’s BE Jazz for members of the public in the tent with Chalke on trumpet, Jim Fleri on piano, Ben McPherron on bass and Michael Willis on drums.
For links to purchase tickets for ticketed events and a full performance schedule for the entire festival, please visit the website at www.highcountryjazzfestival.org.
Media sponsors include Mountain Time Publications and Curtis Media Group.