BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Jazz Center's Big Band will present its Annual Scholarship Gala on Friday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. This year the band will be featuring vocalist Amanda Carr, who has sung with the Boston Pops, Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller's orchestras, and many others.
The VJC Big Band, under musical director Rob Freeberg, is made up of area professional musicians who come together to enjoy the camaraderie and swinging tunes while raising money for the VJC's Scholarship Fund.
December's annual gala is the center's only fundraiser for the VJC Scholarship Fund. Prior to the pandemic, the VJC annually bestowed $30,000 scholarships, offsetting fees for ensembles, private lessons, and its summer jazz workshop.
As described in a news release, the VJC intends to reenergize its in-person educational programs this winter by presenting a broader range of class offerings with generous scholarships as needed to all that apply; monies brought in from this gala will enrich that goal.
The concert takes place both as a livestream and in-person. All attendees and musicians will be vaccinated, and everyone not actively playing wind instruments or singing will wear masks. The live stream for home viewers can be accessed on the Vermont Jazz Center's website or via its Facebook Live page.
Guest vocalist Amanda Carr - “a Boston legend,” VJC Director Eugene Uman says - became acquainted with the Great American Songbook through her parents, who were both esteemed jazz pros. Her father, Nick Capezuto, toured with Glenn Miller, Louis Prima, and Woody Herman. Her mother, Nancy Carr, was house vocalist at the Totem Pole Ballroom on the Charles River.
Amanda Carr has sung at festivals around the world, including two appearances as headliner at the EuroJazz Festival in Italy. She has released five albums under her own name, including Common Thread with the Ken Hadley Big Band.
She is the composer of “Strong,” a Boston anthem that uplifted the city's spirits after the Boston Marathon bombings and again during the pandemic. She has appeared as guest vocalist with the Boston Pops, the Plymouth Philharmonic, the Artie Shaw Orchestra, the Harry James Band, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and many others. She has also performed for many years as the leader of a rock band and as a featured guest with blues legend James Montgomery.
Trumpeter Rob Freeberg, a seasoned veteran, conducts the large ensemble, “drawing on his respect for the jazz legacy, an unerring ear and decades of experience directing his own Big Band in the New York City region,” Uman says.
Freeberg moved from New York to Dummerston in 2012 after retiring as director of bands at New Rochelle High School, where he taught for 30 years.
The musical director of the VJC Sextet, he also performs with the Windham Orchestra, its brass quintet, the Bennington County Choral Society, and the Keene Chorale.
This year the VJC Big Band celebrates 17 years of performances thanks in great part to band manager Sherm Fox's “continued persistence and organizational efforts,” Uman says.
“He is the glue that has held the band together since 2004, taking on the chore of herding 17 jazz cats into formation,” he added.
The VJC Big Band - initiated by Fox and Howard Brofsky, VJC president and mentor for decades - has featured Houston Person, Dave Stryker, Samirah Evans, Mark Anagnostopoulos, Rebecca Holtz, Kevin Mahogany, and Eguie Castrillo.
Joining Carr this year will be trumpeters Don Anderson, Rick Anderson, Ryan Kapoor, Dave Dell, and Freeberg; woodwind players Michael Zsoldos, Sherm Fox, Bob Stabach, Carl Clements, and Donna Morse; trombonists John Wheeler, Bob Thies, Dave Sporny, and Caroline Cole; and rhythm section members Uman (piano), Wes Brown (bass), and Steve Rice (drums).
The VJC advises making early reservations, “as this concert always sells out quickly and the VJC is only permitting 50 percent capacity.” No table seating is available this year to maximize social distancing and dancing space.
Admission is by sliding scale, starting at $25. Tickets can be reserved at vtjazz.org, by email, or by phone (802-254-9088 ext. 1). The venue is accessible by calling the VJC to schedule assistance from a staff member.