Posts Tagged ‘Jazz in the Pines’

Evening Jazz Event to Benefit Elementary Students

August 19, 2011

Town Jazz will help bring music back to elementary schools

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Marshall Hawkins, a bassist who heads up the Jazz Department at Idyllwild Arts Academy, has long been the face of Jazz in the Pines, an annual two-day jazz event that has grown in popularity each year.

Now, Marshall is lending his image and musical charisma to an evening jazz event next weekend, Aug. 27 and 28.

“Town Jazz with Marshall Hawkins” will likely bring more business to Idyllwild shopkeepers, while helping to bring more music to elementary schools through Marshall’s charity, Seahawk MOJO.

“I’m bringing some of the best jazz musicians from all of Southern California,” Marshall said. “It’s going to be a really great event.”

“Town Jazz with Marshall Hawkins” will be held for two evenings at JoAn’s Restaurant, in the center of Idyllwild, so there is no conflict with the Jazz in the Pines concert held during the day on the Idyllwild Arts campus.

Town Jazz’s lineup on Saturday, Aug. 27, and Sunday, Aug. 28, is impressive. These musicians will honor Graham Dechter on Saturday, Aug. 27, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and honor Daniel Jackson on Sunday, Aug. 28, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Daniel Jackson (tenor/sax), Gilbert Castellanos (trumpet), Bob Boss (guitar), Brett Sanders (drums), Mikan Zlatkovich (piano) and Roy Gonzales (Latin percussion on Sat.) and Najite (African percussion on Sun.). Special guests both evenings include Yve Evans and Roland “Esquire” Holmes.

Naturally, Marshall will play both nights, and is excited about this first-ever event, mainly because it’s going to help to bring music to young people in the schools.

“Seahawk MOJO, is an acronym that stands for Seahawk Modern Jazz Orchestra,” Marshall explained.

Because he was out of town and pressed for time, he sent a letter explaining Seahawk MOJO’s mission. It started with a great need to put music education back into the elementary schools.

“Few Americans need to be reminded of the long-term damage caused by the removal of arts education, including music, from the curriculum in our public schools,” Marshall wrote. “Jazz education teaches a ‘universal language’ that can serve as a tool for personal, social and economic empowerment. It’s a language that expresses the ironies of our American democracy, especially for the disenfranchised, with humor, joy, boundless artistry, and imagination.”

Doug Yagaloff believes 'Town Jazz' will help local shopkeepers

During this event, Seahawk MOJO is operating under its parent non-profit organization, the Idyllwild Master Chorale. Marshall has long played bass for the Master Chorale events, including their Messiah program.

Although the next generation of jazz musicians will benefit from this “Town Jazz” event, another group set to benefit: Idyllwild shopkeepers, innkeepers and restauranteurs. The Idyllwild Business Roundtable and the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce are managing the business end of the “Town Jazz” event, namely sending out promotion, bringing in volunteers, and managing the two-evening event.

“Town Jazz is going to bring back jazz to the town of Idyllwild,” said Doug Yagaloff, who co-owns Mountain Harvest Market in Strawberry Plaza. “Too often, business owners have been left out of the Jazz in the Pines weekend. We don’t hear the music and business revenue goes down, so this year, we’re going to reverse course.”

Doug spoke frankly about Idyllwild business owners wanting to be part of Jazz in the Pines weekend.

“There are three categories of people that we want to reach that weekend: those who come for the concert and stay overnight and might eat dinner in town. There are those who come for the day to hear a specific jazz musician, but leave immediately afterwards. Then there are the locals, who may like jazz music, but the $65 daily price ticket is out of their reach.”

Town Jazz, at $10 a ticket, can appeal to all of these groups. It offers a nice musical lineup outside JoAn’s restaurant in the center of town. Seating, drinks, food and bathrooms are provided by JoAn’s. The Business Roundtable rented 300 extra chairs, and expect to attract 400 to 500 people for the two-day event.

Ticket sales cover costs for the musicians, while everyone else is volunteering their efforts, Doug said. He estimates it will cost about $4,000 to put on the Town Jazz event. He hopes to recoup those expenses in ticket, T-shirts and poster sales.

Cafe Aroma, which also features jazz musicians during Jazz in the Pines weekend, fully supports the efforts of Town Jazz, Doug said.

“Frank and Hubert think there’s enough jazz for all of Idyllwild that weekend,” he said. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

Doug said that Idyllwild Arts Associates, the nonprofit group that hosts Jazz in the Pines, is supporting Marshall’s “Town Jazz”


T-shirts, with Marshall's image, will be sold for $13 and $15

“They came and spoke with us at our Business Roundtable, and we’re also hosting a booth at their event,” Doug said. “Everything’s cool.”

Tickets for “Town Jazz with Marshall Hawkins” are $10 each, and can be purchased at Mountain Harvest Market and the Spruce Moose. T-shirts with Marshall’s image, will be available for sale starting Friday, Aug. 26, for $13 each/$15 for larger sizes.

For more information on the event, visit

Published on: Aug 19, 2011 @ 1:49 E




The Making of a Legend’s Banner

September 8, 2010

Shown under construction, the Herb Jeffries banner will be auctioned off at Cafe Aroma

By Marcia E. Gawecki

A couple of years ago, there was an event in Idyllwild honoring a Film Noir star, Colleen Gray. Jeffrey Taylor, from Green Cafe and Cafe Cinema, hosted the event. About 200 people showed up that night to watch “Nightmare Alley,” and hear Colleen speak of her experience with making the film. It was a great time, and at 11 p.m., Herb Jeffries and Savannah were the last to leave. Herb was 95 at the time.

In Idyllwild, Herb Jeffries is like everyone’s favorite uncle. He’s talented, handsome, positive and interested in everything. And he tells great stories about all of the people he’s met and worked with over the years. You just never get tired of being around Herb.

And he always thanks God for everything he’s ever received. He doesn’t sound preachy or anything. Just a man telling it like it is.

Louis Armstrong is part of the "Jazz in the Pines" banner series

Last year, I created a 7-foot banner of Herb Jeffries. It was part of my first “Jazz in the Pines” banner series shown outside of Cafe Aroma. The other banners included Marshall Hawkins (another local musician critical to the Jazz Fest); Miles Davis (whom Marshall played with!); Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday.

I was so nervous about making the banner and wondering if Herb would see it and like it, that I made myself sick. I stayed up all night painting it over and over again with my funky colored acrylic paint. By morning, I was shaking and tired, but still not satisfied with the outcome. But I had to turn it in.

A legend was going to see this banner. A legend who played with Duke Ellington and starred in cowboy westerns. He’s visited the president and has a star on the Walk of Fame. What would he think of my humble rendition of him?

“Did Herb like the banner?” I asked Frank Ferro, the owner/manager of Cafe Aroma, almost every day.

“He hasn’t seen it yet,” Frank said.

A couple of weeks after the Jazz Fest, Cafe Aroma hosted a birthday party for Herb Jeffries, and my banner served as the backdrop. A good time was had by all, and Herb saw the banner, Frank said. But that’s all Frank said.

It took a long time to decide if Herb's specs should be pink or purple

My guess was that Herb didn’t like it and Frank was too polite to tell me. So I pressed my friends and my boyfriend for their opinions.

“I like the one of Marshall Hawkins the best, even though he looks angry,” Jeffrey Taylor admitted. “But the one of Herb Jeffries I don’t like as much.”

Daggers in my heart, but constructive criticism, just the same.

When my neighbor’s friends came to stay for a few days this summer, they asked me to fly Herb’s banner outside my house. Les and Barbara Doaks knew Herb and Savannah Jeffries. They said they had seen a picture of Herb in “Cowboys & Indians” magazine recently. Herb had just attended some big rodeo event.

Once hanging outside my house, I realized the colors were all wrong. Hot pink and orange were not right for a legend. The trouble with painting door-sized banners is that it takes a lot longer to change colors. And when you change one color, it affects all of the others.  In fact, you can work yourself up into a feverish frenzy–to the point that you don’t know if it’s even Herb Jeffries anymore.

Jackson Pollock once said, “It’s easy getting into a painting, but sometimes you have to fight your way out.”

So this year, I was lucky enough to host another series of “Jazz in the Pines” banners at Cafe Aroma. I spent a lot of time repairing the 2009 banners, especially the one of Herb. The only new banner this year was of another local jazz musician, Barnaby Finch. Barnaby’s ended up being a “bear” to complete because it was larger, almost barn-door sized.

So when Cafe Aroma sent a Live Mail notice recently announcing the 97th birthday celebration for Herb Jeffries, I was thrilled! I trusted they would use my banner as the backdrop for another celebration. Sadly, Herb may not be there to celebrate his big day. Yet, Cafe Aroma plans to set up a live link to where Herb is recovering from his surgery.

And there’s going to be a fundraiser that night too. Local artists and musicians have been asked to contribute something. My 7-foot banner of Herb that has been smiling down on Cafe Aroma diners for two years now would be a natural. Donating the banner (worth $800) to a legend’s recovery fund would do my heart good.

“Herb used to do a lot of free concerts for people in Idyllwild,” Jeff told me. “He’s a very generous man.”

My only hope is that my Herb Jeffries Banner fetches more than $200. You just never know with live auctions. But Herb has always preached a strong faith in God and mankind. So whatever it fetches, it will be enough.

I just wish I knew if Herb liked it.

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Idyllwild Jazz Fest = Student Scholarships

September 1, 2010

A photo of Jacob, a jazz scholarship student, was featured on the program

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Many of the jazz enthusiasts who attended last weekend’s Jazz in the Pines event didn’t know it was a scholarship fundraiser (although it was clearly written on all of the promotional materials).

“Ticket prices are a little high,” said one attendee from San Diego of the $60 entry fee. “Other jazz fests like the one in Monterey only charge $35 to get in, but it’s a great being up here in the mountains.”

When she was told by another attendee that the money raised from the jazz fest went to student scholarships for the Idyllwild Arts Academy, she was impressed.

“Well, that’s different,” she said. “There’s a lot of talented kids out there who can’t afford to go to a good school. If my ticket today helps them get there, I’m all for it.”

At least three scholarship students performed live at this year’s Jazz in the Pines event, including Jacob on sax, Caleb on trumpet and Connor on trombone. Marshall Hawkins, head of the Jazz Department at Idyllwild Arts, always invites his Idyllwild Arts jazz students (and some classical students) to play with his band, the Harry Pickens Trio.

Not only did they play with him on Sunday, August 29, but he showed them off to the crowd.

“The students were playing in the back, and he brought them up front and center, and made them play some solos,” explained one jazz fan from Palm Springs. “Poor kids, they were put on the spot, but they did great!”

She said that she saw Jacob afterwards while waiting in line for the shuttle, and asked him if he was nervous about being singled out.

Little did the fans know, but Jacob, Caleb and Connor, had been practicing all summer for that very moment in the spotlight.

Caleb was a teacher’s assistant during one of the summer school sessions at Idyllwild Arts. Jose, who lived in the same dorm and heard him play at concerts, was impressed with his dedication.

“We’d see him in the mornings, and after dinner,” explained Jose. “All the time in between, he was practicing his horn.”

Jacob knew that he’d be playing at the jazz fest when school ended last June.

“Come and hear me play at the Jazz Fest,” he told his friends and teachers.

In fact, a photo of Jacob was featured on a full page advertisement on the back of the jazz fest program. It showed him intently playing his sax.

“I was really surprised when someone pointed it out to me,” Jacob said. “That’s really cool!”

Connor, who lives in Palm Springs, and spent his summer tutoring grade school music students in his dad’s office, was also ready for his solo at the jazz fest.

For them, to be in front of a live audience, especially one that understands and appreciates jazz, was quite the thrill. For most of the year, they play before select audiences made up of friends and faculty.

Mariya, a classical bass player who had a four-year scholarship to Idyllwild Arts, also played with Marshall Hawkins at the Jazz in the Pines last year.

“It was a good experience playing before a live audience,” Mariya said. “But it got a little cold in the shade. My fingers were frozen.”

Since then, Mariya graduated and earned a full scholarship to The Colburn School of Music in Los Angeles. She hopes to come back and play with the Idyllwild Arts Student Orchestra as a “ringer” (a professional player) sometime this year.

“We’re coming back!” Jacob shouted as he walked along Tollgate to his car after the show. “Caleb and I are coming back here for our senior year!”

Ticket sales at Jazz in the Pines 2010 must’ve been good this year.