Alexis Cole
Andrew Bogard
Alexis Cole

Celebrated vocalist to perform at benefit big-band concert

Scholarship Gala will raise thousands of dollars for musicians for whom Vermont Jazz Center’s offerings are beyond financial reach

BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Jazz Center's Big Band will present its Annual Scholarship Gala - the primary fundraiser for the VJC Scholarship Fund - on Friday, Dec. 1, at 7:30 p.m.

This year, the band will feature guest vocalist Alexis Cole, a singer who has performed at celebrated venues including The Carlyle, Carnegie Hall, Birdland Jazz Club, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the Blue Note. She has also sung as a soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

For six years, Cole served in the U.S. Army as the lead singer for the West Point Band's Jazz Knights. For her concert at the VJC, Cole will be singing the arrangements that were prepared for her by Scott Arcangel, the Knight's pianist and arranger.

Cole's most recent release (2021) is a collection of that repertoire, Sky Blossom: Songs From My Tour of Duty. She will sing some classics, include swing tunes like "Our Love is Here to Stay," "You Make Me Feel So Young," "Beyond the Sea," and "Social Call."

She will also sing bossa novas such as "Corcovado," "Triste," and "Estate."

She has recorded a dozen albums as a leader with such luminaries as pianist Harry Pickens and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. She has also appeared as a guest with pianist Harold Mabern on his album Afro Blue.

Cole is a world traveler who posts details of her journey on her blog. Originally from Queens, New York, she received her undergraduate degree from William Paterson University and a master's degree in jazz performance from Queens College.

Directly after college, she served as an AmeriCorps volunteer and then went to study music in Mumbai, India with the Jazz India Vocal Institute. From 2000 to 2005, she traveled extensively in Europe, busking and hitchhiking.

In 2020, Cole founded, an online educational community featuring singing classes with some of the top names in vocal jazz. In 2021, she cofounded the annual Virginia Beach Vocal Jazz Summit.

Formerly a professor of jazz voice at SUNY-Purchase and William Paterson University, Cole recently resigned from academia to work on a new project,, to help emerging musicians find performing opportunities around the world.

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The VJC Big Band, under the leadership of Musical Director Rob Freeberg, is made up of area professional musicians who come together to enjoy the rewards of playing invigorating, challenging, and historically significant repertoire while raising money for the VJC's Scholarship Fund.

The fund grants an annual average of $27,000 worth of scholarships to students, offsetting fees for ensembles, private lessons, and VJC's world-renowned summer jazz workshop. By attending this event you will be contributing to the scholarship fund; all proceeds will be earmarked towards benefiting students who otherwise would not be able to pursue their musical dreams.

This concert will be a hybrid event, with both live stream and in-person components. You can come to the Jazz Center to dance to the 16-piece band or create an intimate dance party in your home. Livestream viewers are encouraged to make an online donation to the Scholarship Fund in lieu of purchasing a ticket.

Freeberg, a seasoned trumpeter and big band conductor, leads the VJC's large ensemble with finesse and skill, drawing on his respect for the jazz legacy, an unerring ear, and decades of experience leading his own big band in the New York City region.

He moved to Dummerston in 2012, after retiring as director of bands at New Rochelle (N.Y.) High School, where he taught for 30 years. He also serves as the musical director of the VJC Sextet and performs with the Windham Philharmonic.

This year the VJC Big Band celebrates its 19th season, thanks in great part to the persistence and organizational skills of its band manager, baritone saxophonist Sherm Fox. Organizing 16 musicians is no small task!

The VJC Big Band was originally a collaborative project initiated by Fox and Howard Brofsky (a.k.a., Dr. Bebop), the VJC's mentor and former board president, who died in 2013.

Previous headliners of this benefit concert have included Evan Arntzen, Amanda Carr, Houston Person, Dave Stryker, Samirah Evans, Rich Greenblatt, Mark Anagnostopulos, Rebecca Holtz, Kevin Mahogany, Miles Griffith, Peter Eldridge, Wanda Houston and timbalero Eguie Castrillo.

In addition to Freeberg and Fox, the members of the 2023 VJC Big Band include trumpeters Don Anderson, Rick Anderson, Haneef Nelson, and Joe Conti; woodwind players Michael Zsoldos, Matt Steckler, Carl Clements, and Donna Morse; trombonists Tim Atherton, Priyanka Magavi, Dave Sporny, and Amaranth Cole; and rhythm section members Eugene Uman (piano), Wes Brown (bass), and Steve Rice (drums).

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Admission to this hybrid in-person/livestream event is offered for a sliding fee, starting at $30. All seats are general admission and available at and by emailing Alina Kulpaviciute at [email protected], who can also assist with accessibility needs. The streaming of this concert can be accessed at and at

Eugene Uman is director of the Vermont Jazz Center. The Commons ' Deeper Dive column gives artists, arts organizations, and other nonprofits elbow room to write in first person and/or be unabashedly opinionated, passionate, and analytical about their own creative work and events.

This The Arts column was submitted to The Commons.

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