Jazz festival held in Dunkirk



OBSERVER Staff Writer

Saxophones and trombones and trumpets – oh my! The eighth annual Dunkirk Jazz Invitational was held Saturday at Dunkirk Middle School.

The annual event is presented by the Northern Chautauqua County Band Directors Association. The NCCBDA started in 2006 to support local music, President and DJI Coordinator Robert De Santis said.

“Our job is to support local, live music. We push jazz because jazz is America’s classical music,” he said.

The event is always held in April in celebration of National Jazz Appreciation Month. When the DJI was held its first year, about 50 students performed, but has grown to 187 students from local high schools at this year’s event. The event was held at the Clarion, the Dunkirk High School and the Boys and Girls Club in the past before returning to the middle school last year.

“Every year we’ve grown. The first year we started with about 50 kids and today we have 187 performing plus the (SUNY) Fredonia Jazz Ensemble,” De Santis said.

Jazz Ensembles from Dunkirk Middle, Brocton Middle, Forestville Middle, Brocton High, Forestville High and Cassadaga Valley schools performed along with the Corner Pocket Big Band from Clymer and Sherman school districts and the Black Knight Jazz Ensemble. Each district performed three or four jazz selections and took turns performing on stage in sets of two. The SUNY Fredonia Jazz Ensemble performed in between sets.

The event is very family oriented “where everybody can have fun,” Michael Wieloszynski, NCCBDA founder and CEO, said.

“They really enjoy hearing the kids from the other schools. They can compare what their jazz band is like to other jazz bands. They can really see the progression (from middle school to college). Music builds so much character. Jazz music in general builds even more character because kids have to solo or play improvised solos,” Wieloszynski said.

Unlike a musical competition, the event allows students to have fun in a noncompetitive setting, De Santis said. Students are able to see what other districts are doing in their jazz bands and use it as a learning tool. Opening the event was Assemblyman Andrew Goodell who spoke of his own musical experiences. He compared jazz music to teamwork. Each musician in the band has to perform individually to the best of their ability, but also must perform as a team. It includes listening and following, he said. He also praised the musical talent in the county.

“What an asset we have here in Chautauqua County with our kids and our music program,” Goodell said.

Each year, the NCCBDA tries to have a local politician speak on how important music education is or how it has impacted their personal life. Also prior to the first performance, a moment of silence was held for Warren Whitford who has been a supporter of NCCBDA and a local musician.

“In these difficult times when music programs are getting cut … this is a nice (public relations) event for districts to showcase their music programs out to the taxpayers and the community,” De Santis said. “It’s a gigantic day of camaraderie.”

Rebecca Laubert, a junior from Silver Creek who plays clarinet said she has had fun the past two years she’s attended the event. She said she enjoys coming for the chance to see friends from other districts. Senior Zach Pierce from Silver Creek plays drums and has also attended the event the past two years. He said he enjoys coming to the event.

“It’s definitely a lot more fun than not doing it,” Pierce said.

Every student received a T-shirt for participating and each district received a plaque. These were given out at an awards ceremony at the end of event. Next year the annual event will hopefully be at SUNY Fredonia, De Santis said.

“Next year, our plans are to get to SUNY Fredonia to get to perform,” he said.

For more information on NCCBDA, visit www.nccbda.org.

Comments on this article may be sent to smcdonnell@observertoday.com.