WAYNESBORO, Pa. — The piano misbehaves, the saxophone screams and the drums shift from ethereal and restrained to raw and ready to rumble.
It’s a study in collective improvisation — a rhythmic energy known as jazz.
And on Sunday, Aug. 21, it returns to Waynesboro in the form of a big backyard party.
As it has for the past 20 years, the Renfrew Museum and Park will play host to the Renfrew Institute Jazz Festival — a concert featuring some of the world’s top musicians.
The festival will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the lawn behind the museum house.
Melodie Anderson-Smith, institute director, doesn’t remember the exact number of people who attended that first festival 20 years ago, but it was evident by the response that the public welcomed this new musical experience, she said.
“There were many requests that we keep it going,” Anderson-Smith recalled.
Since then, the number of jazz lovers arriving in this small town for big-time entertainment has continued to grow.
“We’re now getting about 700 to 900 people each year,” she said, with many coming from Virginia and Washington, D.C.
The idea for a jazz event came about through Andrew Sussman, executive director of the Cumberland Valley School of Music in Chambersburg, Pa., Anderson-Smith said. He was on the Renfrew Institute’s board of directors and offered to organize the festival, contacting the musicians and making all of the arrangements.
“We are fortunate that Andrew has continued to contribute his time and expertise each year to assemble a quartet or quintet of jazz musicians,” Anderson-Smith said.
The event typically costs between $5,000 and $6,000, she said, but the cost to attendees is zero.
“From the first festival, we haven’t charged admission,” Anderson-Smith said. “But we do pass the hat at intermission and people are very generous. They seem to understand that the music is world-class and they want to support it.”
To keep the event free of charge, Anderson-Smith said “much effort goes into grant writing and sponsor recruitment.” The event is underwritten by Cinetic Landis and by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency, through its regional arts funding partnership, Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts. Additional support comes from business, foundation and individuals.
Throughout the years, the festival has featured a cross-section of jazz music, she said, “and the collaborations have been fascinating. From the 2007 trumpet summit featuring Grammy award-winner Brian Lynch and Ingrid Jensen to a saxophone summit last year, featuring Jim Snidero and Ronnie Cuber, to this year’s guitar summit, including Paul Bollenback, Peter Bernstein and Jack Wilkins, the festival has included nearly all jazz specialties.”
Anderson-Smith said many of the musicians have appeared numerous times on the Renfrew jazz stage, including guitarist Paul Bollenback, who has performed for 18 of the 20 years.
“He’s developed a following, so attendees look forward to his return,” she said.
This year, in addition to Bollenback, Bernstein and Wilkins, the festival will also feature bassist Joseph Lopore and drummer McClenty Hunter.
Parking will be available in Renfrew’s lower lot off Welty Road. Limited parking for those with special needs will be available behind the visitor’s center.
Those attending the festival are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets, as well as picnics.
The rain site will be at the Waynesboro Area Middle School auditorium.
Anderson-Smith said the jazz festival continues to draw rave reviews each year, from both attendees and the musicians.
One of the best comments was from an elderly gentleman in 1998, she said, who attended the festival that featured Fathead Newman. He used to go to the city to see that quality of jazz and couldn’t get there anymore. He couldn’t believe he was listening to Newman “right here in Waynesboro.”
If you go:
WHAT: Renfrew Institute Jazz Festival
WHEN: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 21
WHERE: Renfrew Museum and Park, 1010 E. Main St., Waynesboro, Pa.
CONTACT: Call 717-762-4723 or go to www.renfrewmuseum.org
Paul Bollenback, above, returns to Waynesboro on Sunday for the Renfrew Institute Jazz Festival. This year’s concert features guitar-based jazz. Guitarists Peter Bernstein and Jack Wilkins will join Bollenback on stage along with bassist Joseph Lopore and drummer McLenty Hunter.