Launch of the first High Country Jazz Festival from June 8 to 12; Delfeayo Marsalis, NY Voices and Stephen Gordon headline events

Joining together in an unprecedented partnership, the Appalachian Theater of the High Country (ATHC), Boone Sunrise Rotary and Appalachian State University’s Jazz Studies Program proudly announce the first Up Country Jazz Festival with nearly a dozen free and paid events at ten different locations in Boone and Blowing Rock from June 8-12, 2022. Tickets go on sale to the public at 11 a.m. Thursday, April 7.

Sponsored by Explore Boone and Mast General Store, the Up 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 arts, educational and civic programs that enrich our High Country home”.

Headlining performances of Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra and Voice of New York will take place in the recently renovated Appalaches Theater with the Threesome by Stephen Gordon play outside under 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.

Todd Wright, a professor at Appalachian State University, known throughout the region as ‘the ambassador of jazz in western North Carolina’, said he came up with the idea for a jazz festival in 1983 while attending an outdoor summer concert in Boone by the North Carolina Symphony. Wright is in his 31st year in college and runs their famous 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.

The festival’s media sponsors are Curtis Media Group and Mountain Times Publications.

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 inauguration Up Country Jazz Festival will begin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8 with a public screening of MGM’s classic 1956 romantic musical “High society” at the Theater des Appalaches. 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 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday June 9, Afternoon Jazz with the Swing Guitars takes place in Lost Province, with a jazz dinner from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Casa Rustica with 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 (BRAHM) will host a conference entitled, “Jazz Personalities: A Connection to North Carolina” at 11 a.m. which is 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 headliner takes place on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Théâtre des Appalaches when Voice of New York takes the stage of the historic place. According to the Boston Herald, “New York Voices lives up to its reputation as the most exciting vocal ensemble in jazz today…bringing together voices of such quality in a band is rare enough, but the real thing of the New York Voices is how they fit together. …” Tickets are $34.

Saturday, June 11 brings together budding professional artists in the morning and established jazz legends in the evening. It starts from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. when the students of Appalachian State University Jazz Studies Program perform popular works for free under the historic art deco marquee of the Théâtre des Appalaches.

Delfeayo Marsalis

At 7:30 p.m., a highlight of the festival takes place inside the App Theater when Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra make their High County 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 beverage 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’s performance of the famous Threesome by Stephen Gordon. 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 is welcome to stay after closing Up Country Jazz Festival free concert Jazz night cap event in Chetola from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. with BE Jazz by Shane Chalke performing for 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.

Stephen Gordon
Voice of New York

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