There’s a great deal of hype going on around Juneau about its resource-rich environment, but recent conversations have turned from gold to silver — Juneau Jazz & Classics’ Silver Anniversary, that is.
Jazz & Classics has grown to be one of Juneau’s greatest treasures. What started as the brainchild of local violinist Linda Rosenthal 25 years ago has now blossomed into an annual affair to remember. As the festival’s artistic director, it is clear that Linda’s enthusiasm and passion for sharing music can be credited for each festival hitting its notes year after year. Bravo!
Although I am a member of the Juneau Jazz & Classics Board of Directors, I admittedly am not a big fan of classical music or some styles of jazz. What attracted me then, and even more so today, is the festival’s commitment to integrate many styles of music into the festival lineup. The festival starts tonight with Rosenthal giving enthusiasts a free presentation looking back at Beethoven, including a review of three of his celebrated string quartets which will be performed during the festival by the Jasper String Quartet.
The opening weekend kicks of with Grammy Award winner Poncho Sanchez on Friday at the newly remodeled Hope Hall (formerly the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall). Sanchez will bring Latin jazz, swing, bebop, salsa and other infectious grooves together where they will collide and churn in a fiery swirl, with results that are no less than dazzling. Oregon Music News’ February edition wrote “Poncho Sanchez — Not just a concert, a dance party.”
Following Sanchez on Saturday night is Tony Award winning artist Chuck Cooper performing at the JACC. Cooper is a veteran of nine Broadway musicals, many off-Broadway shows and is an accomplished movie and television actor. Cooper will be performing cabaret, jazz and Broadway favorites.
Grammy and Tony Award winners in Juneau? It’s not unheard of; in fact, it’s been happening for years.
But Sanchez and Cooper aren’t the only world-renown artists performing in this year’s festival. Blues Music Award winning artist Rick Estrin and the Night Cats will be here, too. Festival-goers will be mesmerized by Estrin’s harmonica mastery and the bands very special blend of blues. Just saying “Night Cats” out loud oozes “cool”. They’ll be here May 13 at Centennial Hall.
This year’s festival finale brings a taste of Louisiana creole and Cajun blend of soul and R&B in an upbeat, toe-tapping treat for the senses. Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers will be performing at the Treadwell Arena on May 21st in a “can’t miss” performance. The button box exhibition alone is worth the price of admission.
Certainly I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something of the exceptional classical talent in this year’s festival. The Jasper String Quartet is an accomplished foursome of artists who have managed to amass an impressive string of first place and other awards from their performances nationally and internationally. Their mastery of their craft is unparalleled. They’ll perform at the Church of the Holy Trinity on May 12. And as a special treat this year, local violin virtuoso Paul Rosenthal will be joining the Jasper String Quartet in two very special performances at the Strings at the Shrine held at the Shrine of St. Therese. The first show sold out almost immediately which prompted addition of a second show. Space is limited, so get your tickets before they’re gone — again.
You now know my secret that classical music isn’t my thing, but I have to say that it is truly inspiring what can be done with the instruments in the hands of remarkable artists. I wouldn’t know Bach from Mozart but it doesn’t take away from the visual treat of watching artist and instrument becoming one with such precision and intricacy. In some abstract way it’s like witnessing Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods taking their game to unimaginable heights. Even for a non-classical music lover, I can still be awed.
Linda, along with Jazz and Classics Executive Director Sandy Fortier and hundreds of volunteers, are bringing exceptional talent to venues throughout Juneau for many intimate and exciting performances by some of the best artists in the world. Juneau is in for a treat. Make sure you don’t miss it!
Your attendance at the concerts helps to cover the cost of bringing these artists to you, but more importantly, they help bring music to the children of Juneau. The mission of Juneau Jazz and Classics is to provide education outreach to children in Southeast Alaska. Many of the artists that JJ&C is able to bring to Juneau throughout the year also provide educational music workshops for our youth. Now, more than ever, with school budget challenges, being able to provide our children exposure and opportunity to embrace and grow their musical passion is something we should all take pride in and encourage. Thank you for your support.
I’ve only listed but a portion of the events on tap for the next couple of weeks. There are a number of free performances taking place throughout Juneau. Check the ads in the Empire or visit www.jazzandclassics.org for a complete lineup and schedule.
This year’s festival may be silver, but the experience will be priceless.
• Bryan is on the board of directors for Juneau Jazz and Classics and is the Empire’s publisher.