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Vermont Jazz Center Presents the Big Band Scholarship Gala feat. Alexis Cole

The Vermont Jazz Center’s Big Band will present its Annual Scholarship Gala. This event is the primary fundraiser for the VJC Scholarship Fund.

Dance to the sounds of a 16-piece big band performing swinging dance music – with special guest vocalist Alexis Cole.
Friday, December 1, 2023 @ 7:30 pm
72 Cotton Mill Hill, #222, Brattleboro, VT 05301
Tickets available: online at, by email at, by phone 802 254 9088 ext. 1

This year the band will feature vocalist Alexis Cole, a singer who has performed at celebrated venues including The Carlyle, Carnegie Hall, Birdland, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the Blue Note. She has also sung as a soloist with the Boston Pops and the Detroit Symphony. For six years, Ms. Cole served in the US 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 during her deployment. Cole’s most recent release (2021) is a collection of that repertoire called Sky Blossom: Songs From My Tour of Duty. A few classics that Cole will be singing 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.”

Alexis Cole 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, with fellow vocalists Norah Jones, Gregory Porter, and Jane Monheit.

Cole is a world traveler whose website blog provides details of her fascinating journey. Originally from Queens, New York, Cole received her undergraduate degree from William Patterson University and a Masters 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. Cole has done stints at high-class hotels in India and Japan and taught for a semester at the Berklee satellite program in Quito, Ecuador. In 2020 Alexis Cole founded the website, 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 Universities, her student Samara Joy won the 2023 Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album. Her student Lucy Wijnands is a winner of the Ella Fitzgerald Vocal Competition. In May 2023 Cole resigned from academia to work on a new project called to help emerging musicians find performing opportunities around the world.

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. December’s Annual Gala is the primary fundraiser for the VJC Scholarship Fund which 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 in-person to the sixteen-piece band, or create an intimate dance party in your home. The live stream can be accessed on the Vermont Jazz Center’s website ( or via its FaceBook Live page. Livestream viewers are encouraged to make an on-line donation to the Scholarship Fund in lieu of purchasing a ticket.

The VJC Big Band is fortunate to have trumpeter Rob Freeberg’s guidance as musical director. Rob is a seasoned trumpeter and big band conductor who 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. Freeberg moved to Dummerston, VT in 2012, after retiring from his position as Director of Bands at New Rochelle High School, NY, where he taught for 30 years. Freeberg is the musical director of the VJC Sextet and also performs with the Windham Philharmonic.

This year the VJC Big Band celebrates its nineteenth season, thanks in great part to the persistence and organizational skills of band manager and baritone saxophonist Sherm Fox. Organizing sixteen 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 passed away in 2013. Each year the VJC Big Band performs a concert that features a special guest artist. Past headliners 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.

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

VJC is especially grateful to sponsors Dianne and Steve Lieberman, medical professionals from Amherst, Massachusetts. By sponsoring this annual event for many years, the Liebermans have demonstrated their belief in the music and the VJC community. VJC also appreciates the support of the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Humanities Council, the New England Foundation of the Arts, the National Endowment of the Arts, and, for media support, The Commons and the Brattleboro Reformer.

Be sure to mark Friday, December 1st on your calendars. Polish your dancing shoes to prepare for this fun evening. Dance the night away and savor the sounds of swing music! Make your reservations early, as this concert always sells out quickly. Admission, $30+ general admission (sliding scale). Tickets can be reserved online at, by email at, by phone 802 254 9088 x1. Handicapped access is available by emailing or calling the VJC to schedule a time for one of our staff to meet your party.