Annual Waynesboro jazz festival attracts hundreds

August 21, 2011|By C.J. LOVELACE |
  • Jazz musicians McClenty Hunter, left, Joseph Lepore, Jack Wilkins, Paul Bollenback and Peter Bernstein play Sunday during the Renfrew Jazz Festival at Waynesboro (Pa.) Area Middle School.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Jazz guitarists Peter Bernstein and Jack Wilkins recently returned from performing on tours in Australia and Brazil.

“And I just got back from Russia,” said guitarist Paul Bollenback, “so yeah, kind of funny, right?”

The internationally renowned artists, along with bassist Joseph Lepore and drummer McClenty Hunter, came together Sunday afternoon at the 20th annual Renfrew Institute Free Jazz Festival at Waynesboro Area Middle School.

Bollenback, a 31-year professional performer and New York native, has performed 18 times in the show’s 20-year history, and all five men are regulars on the New York City jazz scene.

“It’s a great festival,” Bollenback said. “That’s why we keep coming back, and it’s a festival that has enough sponsorship that they can afford to bring in great players, which also makes it special, and the people turn out. All those things are good reasons to go and play.”

Concertgoers filled the middle school auditorium after the event was moved indoors due to inclement weather in Sunday morning’s forecast. It was originally set to take place on the lawn at Renfrew Park.

After radar indicated lightning in an approaching weather system, Tracy Holliday, assistant director of the Renfrew Institute, was forced to make the decision to move inside, but said she felt fortunate to have a rain venue like the middle school.

“Over the 20 years of the event, we’ve had to move (inside) two times,” she said. “We would have really preferred to be outdoors, but we’re glad we have an indoor venue … so we made the difficult decision to bring it under roof, and by the looks of the parking lot, a tremendous amount of folks have followed us.”

The event began as the brainchild of then-Renfew Institute board member Andrew Sussman, who thought of the idea of bringing world-class jazz music to a rural community. People have really embraced it, Holliday said.

“The crowd size has grown,” Holliday said. “We probably began in the early days with a couple hundred in attendance, and I’m not sure about today, since we moved indoors, but typically in the recent past years we’ve been between 700 and 900 folks. And that includes music lovers from our immediate region, as well as the broader region … the D.C. metro area.”

Dan Dropkin of Carlisle, Pa., made the trip down with a couple friends to see the festival for the first time.
“It’s just world-class,” said Dropkin, a jazz musician, during the show’s intermission. “I’m enjoying it. It’s a wonderful thing.”

A friend of Dropkin’s, Ken Jankura, also of the Carlisle area, said he’s been to about 10 shows since its start and always enjoys it. He was excited to see Bollenback play with a pair of other guitarists of such high caliber.

“Every year, Paul’s here and he’s great,” Jankura said.

Holliday lauded the support received from various community sponsors, including the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts and Cinetic Landis (formerly Landis Tool Co.), which make the event possible each year.

“The concert is free,” she said. “Our underwriting supporters make that possible, to bring a rural community world-class jazz that would be out of reach for some folks.”

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