Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

DeMerle Jazz Festival Ready for Spotlight

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

DeMerle Jazz Festival Ready for Spotlight

Article excerpt

Byline: Alison Trinidad, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

Bebop, blues and swing are making a comeback to Amelia Island next month, with a few Brazilian samba notes added here and there.

The second Les DeMerle Amelia Island Jazz Festival is set to bring back world-class performers to teach young musicians and play foot-tapping jazz for a four-day music fest beginning Nov. 12.

The festival was an inspiration for aspiring musicians last year, said Johnnie Robinson, Fernandina Beach High School's jazz band director.

"You inspired every young musician present to practice harder and reach for that higher note," Robinson wrote to the festival's organizer, bandleader and drummer Les DeMerle.

DeMerle and his wife, vocalist Bonnie Eisele, have been planning for this year's festival since last year's success, but traveling from gig to gig made it difficult to have an event as grand as they'd hoped. Despite that, they say they're still excited about this year's event, which reaches out to the young, old and in-between.

"It's going to be a great show," DeMerle said. "We create a party, a jazz party. That's what we live for."

DeMerle said the festival will be a big-city cultural event for the community, featuring jazz educators from the community who also are stellar performers.

"It keeps culture on the island happening and it keeps us spiritually satisfied," DeMerle said.

Multi-instrumentalist Bill Prince, director of jazz studies at the University of North Florida, will head the festival's kick-off concert at the Nassau County Council on Aging's senior center. Prince and The Jazz Festival All-Stars will play from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 12. Admission is free to people 65 and older. Last year, more than 100 seniors packed the common room to hear the music of their younger years.

DeMerle and Eisele will work with a younger audience the following day, hosting a workshop for students at the Amelia Island Montessori School. They said they hope the program will help the kids get a feel for jazz and rhythm.

Though the program at Montessori is closed to the community, anyone interested in learning about jazz and rhythm can sit in on a workshop from 1:30 to 3:30 p. …

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