Way back when….

The Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra originated as the “Community Jazz Ensemble” in 1990 when Gregg Gelb was a Visiting Artist at Central Carolina Community College. His love of jazz music and the opportunity to share it with others was an exciting venture of the Lee County Parks & Recreation Department. The group began June 11, 1990 and met weekly at the Lee county Arts & Community Center in Sanford, NC. The orchestra’s first public concert was held there October 11, 1990. The merry band of original players included (on saxophone) Sister Blaise Semple, Carolyn Poplin, Bob Bennett, Marty Foster, Bill Fritz, Gregg Gelb, and (on trumpet) Don Pike, Paul Irvine, Sam Tinsley, Tim Mercer, and (on trombone) Frank Burgoyne, Olin Sluss, Don Wazenegger, Jerry Johnson, and (in the rhythm section) Bill Falconer on Piano, Reinette Seaman on bass, John Brookes on Drums, Kenneth Graham on congas, and Marian Carlsen on guitar. Don Nedza was the vocalist.

In September 1994, the Jazz Society was granted tax-exempt status 501(c)(3).

Where we are now….

Since 1990, the Orchestra has played for thousands of jazz enthusiasts around North Carolina at schools, artscenters, festivals, dances, and more. More than 35 guest artists have performed at the Jazz Society’s Temple Theatre series in Sanford. In 2002, the orchestra’s book has over 240 tunes (and growing). The book includes a carefully considered repertoire of pieces that reflect a wide range of Big Band Jazz styles and arrangements. Included are classics such as Two O’clock Jump, Stompin’ at the Savoy, and Frenesi, as well as many ballads such as The Nearness of You, Imagination, and September Song. That’s a far cry from the 10 or so tunes in the book at our first Fearrington Fall Fling where we had to play pieces twice and some thrice to fill the time!

Weekly rehearsals have been held all over the Triangle area, including the Jordan Hall Artscenter and Glen Air retirement community in Cary, the Senior Center in Pittsboro, Grace’s Little Italy Restaurant in Sanford, and the First Presbyterian Church in Sanford. We are grateful to all of them for the opportunity to rehearse in their facilties. We are also grateful for our volunteer players and our Corporate Sponsors, Friends, Backers, Benefactors, and Patrons for their continued support. The Society also currently receives grant support from the Lee County Arts Council, the Herman Goldman Foundation in New York City, and is a continuing recipient of funding from the North Carolina Arts Council.

If you wish to hear the orchestra or have them play for your function, please email our webmaster or refer to our performance and rehearsal schedules. If you wish to support our mission, please join the society today.