Jazz Festival brings students, musicians together for learning, performances

Published on Thu, Jul 10, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Jazz Festival brings students, musicians together for learning, performances

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

Blaine is getting all jazzed up. Several prominent jazz artists and musicians will make their way to Blaine next week to offer their talents at the Pacific Arts Association�s annual jazz festival.

The festival includes five days of instrumental and vocal band rehearsals, classes, and performance opportunities for students with an internationally recognized faculty.

Sandy Wolf, the president of the Pacific Arts Association (PAA), and producer of the jazz festival said she is looking forward to the event, which features both learning opportunities and entertaining venues. �I�m real excited, it�s a real treat for me,� Wolf said.

Over 40 students and 15 faculty and staff are registered for the festival, which is held in cooperation with the Blaine school district and sponsored by Semiahmoo Resort.

This is the second year of the festival, and Wolf said it has grown relatively fast since it started. It all started really small scale when Richard Clark began raising funds several years ago for a piano in the librar, she said. A piano was shortly after donated, and soon small concerts were being held � about 20 to 30 people in attendance. The performances started to grow and the board grew, and things steadily came to be what they are today.

�It all kind of just fit together,� Wolf said, noting the performances were and are held in the Blaine Performing Arts Center � a place she believes offers the most for musicians in the area.�I really think it�s the best acoustical space in the county. It�s acoustically just marvelous.�

Wolf, originally from the area, traveled to Alaska about 20 years ago with her husband, and became the managing director of the theatre department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the director of the theatre division of the UAF summer fine arts camp, and coordinator of student outreach for the camp for over 15 years. She moved to Blaine eight years ago, where she recently directed The Wizard of Oz and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

�I�m just having a great time with this and I�m so excited,� she said. �We have some wonderful talent here, and most of whom we contacted agreed to come. They love the area.�

About the artists

The Karin Kajita Jazz Quintet of Seattle will perform in Blaine�s Marine Park at noon on Wednesday, July 16 and again that evening in Stars Restaurant at the Semiahmoo Resort at 7:30 p.m. Styled after the great hard bop quintets of the �50s-�60s, Karin Kajita Jazz Quintet has a great sense of swing and a fascinating imagination. The quintet includes Seattle jazz elites Tony Grasso, trumpet; Sue Orfield, tenor sax; Clipper Anderson, bass; and Ray Davis, Drums.

Thursday, July 17, at noon in Marine Park there will be a public performance by students and faculty of the jazz festival and a performance by Mark Kelly�s student band from Bellingham. That evening, in Fairhaven on the Village Green, a jazz combo featuring guitarist Chris Woitech, will perform from 7-8 p.m.

Woitach is a jazz guitarist and composer, currently residing in Portland, Oregon. He has studied composition with David Borden and Bob Keefe in Ithaca, New York and jazz guitar with Jim Hall in New York City. He has had a 24-year career of composition, performance and teaching, working with many innovative players, including a year with cellist Hank Roberts.

He has received two �meet the composer� grants from the New York state council for the arts, one artist grant from the arts Ppartnership of Tompkins County, and a grant from the Washington arts commission for his pieces celebrating Bellingham.

His works include a commissioned eulogy on the death of composer John Huggler (�A Pall Mall for John�), numerous compositions for jazz ensemble, and �The Big Sleep�, a vocal piece based on the words of Raymond Chandler. Christopher Woitach�s most current recordings are �Present Moment�, with the Aebi Coulson group, and �Larry Holloway and Christopher Woitach�, with bassist Larry Holloway.

Also Thursday evening, July 17, beginning at 7:30 the String of Pearls combo will play in Packers Lounge at Semiahmoo Resort. The combo includes Al Kay, consummate soloist who leads the trombone section of Rob McConnell�s Grammy Award-winning jazz ensemble, The Boss Brass.

He has worked for leading symphony orchestras as well as with entertainers such as Diana Krall, Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick, Jr., Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Phil Woods, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald. Last season he astounded local audiences with his performance with True North Brass for the Pacific Arts Association.

In addition to Kay, the String of Pearls combo features pacific northwest-based vocalist Greta Matassa who has been voted the best jazz vocalist in the northwest four times, by the readers of Earshot, a Seattle-based jazz magazine; keyboard specialist Barney McClure who helped establish the world famous Port Townsend jazz festival when he was that city�s mayor; bassist Larry Hollowly, who performs regularly at venues across the U.S.; saxophonist Dan Goble, whose resume includes concerts with the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, the Brooklyn Philharmonic under Robert Spano, the New York City Ballet, and concerts with Bob Hope and Mel Torme. Pearls trumpet player Ed Donohue is a sought-after jazz trumpeter and teacher in Seattle, has toured with jazz groups Abraxis and One Step Further.

On Friday at noon, a group of students and faculty will perform in the Blue Heron Restaurant at the Semiahmoo Golf Club and that evening the string of pearls concert will be in the Blaine Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m.

Only the String of Pearls concert has an admission charge. All others are free and open to the public. Dinner reservations are recommended for Stars Restaurant. Tickets for the concert are available on-line at www.pacificartsassoc.org, by phone 360/332-6484 at Village Books in Fairhaven; and in Blaine at the gift shop at Semiahmoo Resort, Blaine�s visitor information center, and Steamers.

The festival concludes with the student jazz concert featuring student big bands, combos, and vocal groups mixed with faculty in Birch Bay in conjunction with their Discovery Days. The concert will be held along the waterfront between the Drydock and Stephani�s restaurant. This event is free and open to the public on Saturday, July 19, at 4 p.m.

For more information, visit online at www.pacificartsassoc.org or call Sandy Wolf at 371-0141.

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