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Q&A with Catherine Dupuis, president of JazzPA By David Pencek Catherine Dupuis blames her parents for why she’s so passionate about jazz. The music of Stan Getz, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and other jazz greats filled her parents’ home while she was growing up. Besides being an established jazz vocalist herself these days, Dupuis also is president of JazzPA and plans the organization’s Summer Jazz Celebration each year. The 11th JazzPA Summer Jazz Celebration is July 23-25 on the Penn State campus and in Bellefonte, and Dupuis is excited about another great celebration of the music she loves. T&G: How do you think the Summer Jazz Celebration has evolved or grown over the years? Dupuis: We’ve been fortunate to maintain our original goals, which are to share all the wealth of talent that lives and works with us each day in Centre County together with providing an opportunity for some special master artists to come in from out of town and share what they do in an intimate setting that doesn’t cost a fortune. After 11 years, I think we’ve found a nice formula that includes student bands and local big band participation, regional artists who celebrate what’s happening around the state, and national master artists who give us a glimpse of what’s happening in places like New York, Los Angeles, and New Orleans without having to travel there and without breaking the bank. T&G: The word “jazz” might have different meanings to people. What do you think of when you think of jazz?  Dupuis: Phil Woods is a great lead-in on this — and so is Frank Sinatra. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, jazz was the popular music of the time. By the 1960s, with the takeover of rock and roll, you would still find jazz in all kinds of spots — Jimmy Webb, Fifth Dimension, Burt Bacharach, even Carol King and Jim Croce.  By the 1970s, jazz had moved toward some Latin feels, including samba and mariachi — think Herb Alpert — plus straight-ahead stuff like Stevie Wonder, and in the 1980s, you hear all kinds of jazz groove going on with Michael Jackson. What’s on the radio now that's jazz? Norah Jones, Chris Botti, Bruno Mars, and Michael Buble, and I dig the great stuff that Lady Gaga has done with Tony Bennett. There’s so much out there that we listen to all the time that’s really jazz. T&G: What is the jazz following/scene like here in Happy Valley?  Dupuis: It’s amazing how much is going on “jazz-wise” in Happy Valley, in Centre County, and throughout Central PA. Big Bands everywhere, cats traveling all around the state to play together, many recordings — and recording studios — that are getting national attention. My favorite story is of legendary guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. 14 - T&G July 2015

He came in to play the Saturday evening concert in 2007. He came in the night before and heard “The Battle of the Bands” — three big bands: the State High Jazz Band, the Friends Band, and the Valley Jazz Orchestra. Anyway, Bucky pulled me aside, confounded, and said, “Catherine, how the hell do you have one big band out here in the middle of nowhere that sounds this good, much less three that sound this good — and they’re all different personnel in all the bands?” I laughed out loud. There are so many great musicians in this town. I’m always so proud to say that this is my hometown. T&G: What can people look forward to with this year’s celebration?  Dupuis: I’m so thrilled that we have another legendary artist coming in — guitarist Gene Bertoncini. … He loves to weave well-known classical themes into and around jazz standards. Also coming in is Bellefonte native blues man Ramblin’ Dan Stevens. He’ll play both Friday evening and Saturday afternoon in Talleyrand Park. Thursday evening at the Palmer Museum concert, we’ll have Teri Roiger celebrating Billie Holiday. She’s a rare treat, and she’s coming in with the fabulous John Menegon on bass. All of this on top of my trusty and faithful friends, Russ Kassoff, Jay Anderson, and Dennis Mackrel, who come in to help me sing with the Friends Band and to play with Gene on Saturday night. We’ll also have the Deacons of Dixieland, local high school bands, and more. It’s gonna be another great celebration of jazz in July! T&G For more information about JazzPA’s Summer Jazz Celebration, visit

July Town&Gown 2015  

Celebrating our 50th year! Check out the online version of Town & Gown--A magazine about the people, places and events in and around State C...

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