Musical combo at Jazz Fest

Island musicians and MVRHS students come together.


On Friday, Dec. 15, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School will have four groups performing for the second annual Jazz Fest. MV Big Band and MVRHS combo groups are upperclassmen, and will perform alongside professional musicians. The Vineyard Jazz Unit, led by Brian Nelson on C melody saxophone and Taurus Biskis on drums and percussion, will dedicate their work to the pianist John Alaimo. Island musicians Jeremy Berlin and Rose Guerin will also be performing as a vocalist and piano duet.

“We’re raising money at the Jazz Fest, but the show isn’t a flat-out fundraiser,” Stephanie Aurenz, director of bands, explained. One of the goals of the Jazz Fest is to raise money to send students to a jazz workshop at Monomoy High School in Harwich in the spring, as well as a jazz festival in March. “The other goal is to get jazz more in the forefront of the community. It’s a concert environment, but we want it to be accessible to as many groups as possible. The students are there to have fun,” Aurenz says.

Aurenz is new to the Island, and this is her first year as band director. “I moved here from New Hampshire. I grew up in Nashua, and taught at a high school in the Lakes Region,” Aurenz said. “Being on the Island is a nice change.”

High school students are Aurenz’s age group of choice. “They’re really funny and honest with you. You get really good feedback from them, and they’re genuinely passionate about the music and the subject matter. I get genuine enthusiasm from them, which is nice, because I get to share my joy about the music I love.”

MV Big Band will be playing some classics, like “Sing, Sing, Sing,” as well as some fun dance tunes like “Sir Duke” and “You Can Call Me Al.”

“Each group will be performing around 20- to 25-minute sets. We’ll also have five to 10 minutes between transitions, and concessions as well,” Aurenz said. “I’m also excited to work with the other musicians. They’re all well-known, love performing and helping us out. When I was first asked if we were doing the Jazz Fest this year, I was a little like, um … I didn’t know anyone yet. I remember asking Charlie Esposito, director of the Performing Arts Center, who I should ask to play with us, and they’ve all been so kind and so lovely to work with. I’m so excited to hear them live.”

Eventually Aurenz would love to do an alumni and student Jazz Fest, but for now, she’s very much looking forward to this year’s performance. “We’re hoping to make the Jazz Fest an annual thing, and we’re always coming up with new ideas and new combinations,” she said.

“Everyone of all ages and walks of life is welcome. It’s going to be a really fun show. And we hope people will dance!”

The Performing Arts Center doors will open at 6 pm on Friday, Dec. 15, with the first group going on at 6:30. There are no formal tickets, but there is a suggested donation of $10 at the door. The festival is expected to run around two hours.