Jazz and ballroom now part of Sunday River summers
If John Coltrane's sound is one of your favorite things, you'll want to be at Sunday River's Grand Summit Hotel Thursday evening.
From 6 to 10, eight bands will perform in a “Cool Jazz Festival,” featuring such guest artists as tenor saxophonist and Dave Brubeck alum Jerry Bergonzi; former Ray Charles sideman trombonist Jeff Galindo, who has also performed with Phil Woods, Aretha Franklin, and the Boston Pops Orchestra; and trumpeter Nick Drozdoff, who has performed with Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Ojays, Temptations, Melissa Manchester, plus a host of other well-know entertainers.
The eight bands are made up the nearly 100 participants in the first annual five-day jazz camp at Sunday River, put on by Jazz Vermont, a “Band Camp for Grown Ups.”
Jazz Vermont started in 1985 at the Greentrails Inn in Brookfield, Vermont.
“It was one of those inns with 16 or 17 rooms, and not everybody has their own bathroom,” said Jazz Vermont founder Byron Siegel.
“We didn't have rehearsal rooms. We rehearsed outside under a tent. And at night we rehearsed at the elementary school.”
And there were enough campers for only one band.
From there, Jazz Vermont grew slowly, to the point where it now needs the space – and amenities – of a facility such as The Summit.
“It's one of those 'Look-where-we-are-now' stories,” Siegel said.
But while the setting might be luxurious, the campers days' are rigorous: walking (optional) at 6:15 and yoga at 7:30, rehearsal in one of the bands from 9:30 to noon, improv workshop from 1 to 2:15, then section rehearsals at 3. And after dinner, a jam session or concert.
There are women and young musicians among the campers, but most tend to be male, well-educated (“doctors, lawyers and IT guys,” Siegel said), and of an age where their first taste of the music might well have been the Tin Pan Alley coming from Mom and Dad's RCA Victor.
“Many of them are retired, their kids are not at home – they're empty-nesters, I guess,” he said.
'Come any time'
At four hours long, Thursday's evening's concert will be a little lengthy for even the most hardened jazz fan to sit through, but Seigel says late arrivals and early departures are fine.
“What we say to people is: 'Just drop in, and there'll be plenty of music for you to hear, whether you come early or come late.'”
The charge for the concert is $5. It will be held in The Summit's Grand Ballroom
Shall we dance?
This week's jazz camp was preceded, July 18-23, by another Siegel enterprise, Ballroom Vermont's Ballroom Dance Camp for Grown Ups, which featured appearances by U.S. National Rhythm and World Mambo champions Joanna Zacharawicz and Jose DeCamps.
Seventy couples (“or couple-like equivalents”) took part.
One participant comes regularly to Ballroom Vermont's camps, all the way from Abu Dhabi, Siegel said. “He comes every year because he likes the instruction with Mandy Ball, the head instructor for the camp.”
And for dance instructors, the right attitude is crucial, he said, “because sometimes in the dance world you can get teachers who are … 'not so nice' at the process.”
But everyone was more than nice at The Summit, he said, even when it came to finding extra practice room after extra practice room as the week wore on.
Ballroom Vermont and Jazz Vermont will both be back next summer, he said.
Dana Bullen, Sunday River general manager/resort president, credited the his sales team for bringing a “grown-up” musical touch to the resort's summers.
"Jazz and Ballroom Vermont have been two great opportunities for Sunday River," Bullen said. "Our sales team has done a terrific job at expanding our conference space and offerings to include some really unique experiences for guests from all over the world, and these two camps are perfect examples."