Skip to content

Vermont Jazz Center Presents its Annual Big Band Scholarship Fundraising Gala

Vermont Jazz Center Big Band PR (Please give writing credit to Eugene Uman)

Press Release
For immediate release, November 21st, 2017
Contact Eugene Uman, Vermont Jazz Center, 802 254 9088,
Short Summary
Who: The VJC Big Band with two special, world-class guests: vocalist, Kevin Mahogany and guitarist, Dave Stryker
What: Jazz Standards, Great American Songbook, original arrangements
When: Friday, December 1st at 8:00 PM
Where: The Vermont Jazz Center, 72 Cotton Mill Hill, #222, Brattleboro, VT 05301
Tickets available: online at, by email at, by phone 802 254 9088, in person at In The Moment, Main St., Brattleboro, VT.

Big Band Jazz with World-Class Guest Artists; Kevin Mahogany and Dave Stryker Will Swing Hard With the Vermont Jazz Center Big Band, Friday, December 1st

On Friday, December 1st at 8:00 PM, the Vermont Jazz Center will present its 15th annual Gala Scholarship Fundraiser Performance featuring internationally acclaimed vocalist, Kevin Mahogany and guitarist, Dave Stryker. The VJC Big Band, under the leadership of musical director, Rob Freeberg is a community orchestra made up of professional musicians who come together to rehearse and prepare for this annual event. The Vermont Jazz Center Big Band will accompany Mahogany and Stryker as they delve into a repertoire of blues and classic jazz standards. All money raised from this annual gala will go directly to the VJC’s Scholarship Fund. It serves as the primary funding source to assist scholarship students attending VJC’s educational programs. The VJC offers an average of $17,000 in scholarships each year to help students attend ensembles, private lessons and its annual Summer Jazz Workshop.

This year the Vermont Jazz Center is pulling out all the stops to celebrate its 15th year of presenting this annual big band gala by inviting two special guests who have performed and recorded together extensively. Vocalist Kevin Mahogany is well known for both his small-group and big band performances. He has his own repertoire made up of commissioned, custom-made charts, some of which were arranged by the legendary pianist/arranger Frank Mantooth. According to, Mahogany’s “swinging style is reminiscent, but not derivative of Joe Williams.” He takes pride in his Kansas City roots and, like another Kansas City legend Charlie Parker, his delivery is deeply saturated in the authentic blues.
According to Newsweek Magazine, Mahogany is “the standout vocalist of his generation.” Born in 1958 in Kansas City, Missouri, Mahogany grew up listening to the richly diverse musical sounds of his hometown where the legacy of jazz and blues having reigned supreme there in the early 1900s helped shape his style. He took classes at the Charlie Parker Foundation and graduated from Baker University with a BFA in Music, English, and Drama in 1981. After establishing himself as an emerging artist with a stellar reputation, Mahogany recorded three well-received albums with the Enja label before signing with Warner Brothers. His self-titled Warner debut received numerous high profile accolades including Newcomer of the Year (Penthouse) and he was nominated as #1 Jazz Singer of the Year (DownBeat Critics Poll). In 2000, Mahogany received the coveted Downbeat Male Vocalist of the Year Award. The Los Angeles Times called him “one of the first truly gifted male vocalists to emerge in years” and Billboard Magazine declared: “Kevin Mahogany is unquestionably one of today’s most exciting and musically adept jazz vocalists.”
As an actor, Mahogany appeared in the Robert Altman film Kansas City, where he portrayed a character inspired by Big Joe Turner. He also appeared on Eastwood After Hours and T.S. Monk’s film Monk On Monk.
Guest guitarist Dave Stryker is no stranger to the Vermont Jazz Center. He has taught at the VJC Summer Jazz Workshop and performed numerous times at the VJC’s Cotton Mill Studio. Stryker has twice been voted “Rising Star” in Downbeat Magazine’s Critics Poll and has also been selected as one of the “Top 10 Best Jazz Guitarists” in Downbeat’s Readers Poll. Dave cut his teeth on jazz and blues as a young man living in Omaha Nebraska. Still in his teens, he toured the country with the legendary organist Brother Jack McDuff and ended up in Dude’s Lounge in Harlem where the trio remained for a few years as the house band. It was at Dude’s Lounge that Stryker met tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine who asked him to join his quintet. From 1986-1995 he played with the legendary saxophonist at major festivals, concert halls, and clubs throughout the world. With Turrentine, Stryker was able to play with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard. The ten years playing alongside the tenor legend helped him realize the importance of cultivating his own sound. It is this connection to the blues and the soulful earthiness that has earned Stryker recognition and accolades within the musical community and with critics.

Styker has released over 20 CDs under his own name and leadership. He has also recorded with Stanley Turrentine, James Williams, Andy LaVerne, Javon Jackson, Steve Slagle, Kevin Mahogony, Sylvia Cuenca and many others. Stryker enjoys creating and recording projects that correspond to his personal musical vision. His other projects include Trio Mundo (Brazilian-influenced jazz), The Stryker-Slagle Band (a jazz quartet with saxophonist Steve Slagle), Blue to the Bone (a Blues-influenced band with a four-piece horn section) and Shades Beyond (an ensemble influenced by Miles Davis’ electric years).

Mark Friday December 1st on your calendars and polish your dancing shoes to prepare for this fun evening of fundraising for the VJC’s Scholarship Fund. The VJC is fortunate to have board member Rob Freeberg guiding the VJC Big Band as its musical director. Freeberg ran the music department at New Rochelle High School and led his own professional, award-winning, community band. Freeberg also conducted a youth orchestra at Lincoln Center. The VJC Big Band would not exist without the efforts of its band manager, VJC board member Sherm Fox. The members of the VJC Big Band include: trumpet section: Donald Anderson, Rick Anderson, Charlie Schneeweis, Joe Conti; saxophone section: Carl Clements, Sherm Fox, Bob Stabach, Larry Tutt, Nick Pelton; trombone section: Riley Goodemote, John Wheeler, Zach Trombley, Bob Thies; rhythm section: Julian Gerstin (percussion), Draa Hobbs (guitar), Dave Picchi (bass), Steve Rice (drums), Eugene Uman (piano).

The VJC is especially grateful for the generosity of VJC supporters Dianne Gallo and Steve Lieberman who, for several years, have underwritten the musician’s fees for this uplifting event. They continue to support the Vermont Jazz Center in many ways and will also be assisting in the production of this concert. The VJC is grateful to the Brattleboro Reformer, Hampton Inn, WVPR and WFCR and WKVT.

Be sure to make your reservations early because this concert usually sells out quickly. Admission, which includes a delicious and complimentary dessert buffet, is $25-$45 general admission or $30-$50 for reservations that include reserved seating (table spaces are limited). Tickets for The VJC Big Band with Dave Stryker and Kevin Mahogany at the Vermont Jazz Center are available at In the Moment Records in Brattleboro, online at, and by email at Tickets can also be reserved by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line: 802-254-9088, ext. 1. Handicapped access is available by calling the VJC at 802 254 9088.

“Kevin Mahogany is unquestionably one of today’s most exciting and musically adept jazz vocalists.” — Billboard Magazine