Joining together in a precedent-setting partnership, the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country, Boone Sunrise Rotary and the Jazz Studies Program at Appalachian State University proudly announce the inaugural High Country Jazz Festival with nearly a dozen free and ticketed events at 10 different locations in Boone and Blowing Rock from June 8 through 12. Tickets go on sale to the public at 11 a.m. on 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 arts, education, and civic programs that enrich our High Country home.”

Headliner performances by Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra and New York Voices take place in the newly-renovated Appalachian Theatre with the Stephen Gordon Trio performing outdoors under a tent at the Chetola Resort. Additional 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. The events include outdoor concerts, late night jams, jazz lunches, and a popular jazz-themed film.

Appalachian State University Professor Todd Wright, known throughout the area as “the Ambassador for Jazz in western North Carolina,” said that he first conceived of the idea of a jazz festival in 1983 while enjoying a summer outdoor concert in Boone by the North Carolina Symphony.

Wright is in his 31st year at the university and heads their acclaimed jazz studies program.

“We have the perfect place here in the High Country, a perfect time of year with perfect weather, and a perfect anchor venue in the Appalachian Theatre,” said Wright, who added that, “the community excitement and participation is exhilarating.”

Individual event sponsors include Allen Wealth Management, Blue Ridge Energy, Creekside Electronics, Footsloggers, Maureen and David Moses, and the Rosemyr Corporation. Additional support is provided by Chetola Resort, the law firm of Deal, Moseley & Smith, LLP, Julie and Bob Gates, Grandfather Winery, New River Power & Light, the 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 that, “Jazz is an uniquely American tradition that brings people together. With the divisive things going on, I want to support something that unites us.”

Sponsor Jonathan Allen added that, “This jazz festival, and the arts in general, are worth our financial investment because the huge dividends they return 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 Theatre. This musical remake of the Philip Barry 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 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 9, Afternoon Jazz with the Swing Guitars takes place at Lost Province, with a 6 to 9 p.m. with a “jazz dinner” at Casa Rustica featuring local jazz legends Todd Wright and Andy Page. Advance reservations are suggested as seating is limited.

On Friday, June 10, the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum will host a talk entitled, “Personalities in Jazz: A North Carolina Connection” 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 event takes place on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Appalachian Theatre when New York Voices takes the stage of the historic venue. According to the Boston Herald, “New York Voices lives up to its reputation as the most exciting vocal ensemble in current jazz... to collect such quality voices in one group is rare enough, yet the real trick of New York Voices is how well they mesh…” Tickets are $34.

Saturday, June 11 brings together aspiring professional artists in the morning and well established jazz legends that 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 free of charge underneath the historic art deco marquee at the Appalachian Theatre.

At 7:30 p.m., a highlight of the festival takes place inside the App Theatre when Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra make their debut performance in the High Country.

Among their numerous accolades is a sterling review from Downbeat Magazine which said, “Both of Delfeayo Marsalis’ New Orleans-based Uptown Jazz Orchestra’s [compact disc] releases… rank among the strongest big band discs of the past 10 years.” Tickets are $35 and $42.

Jazz enthusiasts and musicians from near and far will gather at Ransom Pub on King Street in Boone for a late night open jam session from 10 p.m. until midnight. It will be a chance to enjoy your favorite beverage while listening to emerging talents and seasoned veterans celebrating this beloved art form. This event is free of charge.

Sunday’s headliner event takes place outdoors in Blowing Rock from 5 to 7 p.m. when Chetola Resort hosts the High Country Jazz Society’s performance of the acclaimed Stephen Gordon Trio. Gordon is a Boone native and, according to jazz drummer and vibraphonist Jason Marsalis, “Stephen Gordon is a musician who believes in the music. Whether on piano or drums, he always plays great ideas while constantly supporting the music in the best possible way.” Single tickets are $25.

Audiences are invited to stay after the closing High Country Jazz Festival concert for the free Jazz Nightcap event at Chetola from 7:30 to 10 p.m. with Shane Chalke’s BE Jazz performing for audience members under the tent with Chalke on trumpet, Jim Fleri on piano, Ben McPherron on bass and Michael Willis on drums.

For links to purchase seats for the ticketed events, and a complete performance schedule for the entire festival, please visit the website at www.highcountryjazzfestival.org.

Media sponsors include Mountain Times Publications and Curtis Media Group.

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