The presentation of jazz events at the college started out as the Jazz Forum Series some years back and since the school has a jazz program, the series featured a jazz workshop with student ensembles and The Blue Notes--alumni of the Summer Jazz Institute. The Center's Director, Matthew Katz, emphasized that by 2005/2006 these events had evolved into the Jazz Live Series and is now a format which features highly professional world class artists presented on the stage which best suits their performances. Katz went on to say that the mission of the Jazz Live Series (consisting of four concerts per year and produced by the Performing Arts Center) is to present quality world class jazz artists that would appeal to the south Queens community in a manner that is professional and accessible to all. Katz explained that the programming of artists who will perform in the series also reflects feedback from the faculty and students.
To insure that the artists have the best environment possible, both theaters boast a state-of-the-art professional sound system and also include support facilities such as four dressing room suites, a green room, rehearsal rooms, a set shop, a fully staffed box office and adjacent parking lots of 1,000 spaces. Katz additionally mentioned, There is not a bad seat in either house.
The 2009-2010 Jazz Live Series line-up includes the Latin Giants Orchestra (formerly called the Tito Puente Orchestra and consisting of All Stars from that band); Cyrus Chestnut Trio; pianist Geri Allen and the duo of vibraphonist Stefon Harris and pianist Jacky Terrasson. Past years have featured performers such as Carla Cook, Cecil Bridgewater, Eddie Palmieri, Charli Persip and the Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio. Although there is no overall concept for each season's set of concerts, we try to achieve some kind of logical connection. However, next season, we are thinking of possibly having a women in jazz theme, said Katz.
Ticket prices for the concerts are quite reasonable at $20 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. The series started out being free, Katz remarked, but the community responded with great passion and does not object to being charged. One of the peculiar but beneficial situations in which the College finds itself, Katz went on to say, is that its size puts it in two different New York City Council districts. He explained that this allows for major funding of the series provided by NYC Council members Thomas White Jr. (28th-CD), Chair of Economic Development, and Leroy Comrie (27th-CD) Deputy Majority Leader.
The York College Performing Arts Center also produces other series during the year. This includes a chamber music series and a special presentation series. The chamber music series presents four concerts during the year. This year's offering consists of the Quintet of the Americas, pianist Jade Simpson, Robert Sims and Alison Buchanan in an evening of opera and the Claremont Trio. The four concert special presentation series will host Dem 2 Jamaican Tenors, Burnt Sugar: The Arkestra Chamber, Ain't I A Woman (a live music theater work by The Core Ensemble) and Unwritten (a one-woman piece of work with music written and performed by Davis).
Katz is quick to point out that since the south Queens community is highly diverse, both culturally and racially, the York College Performing Arts Center reaches out to offer diverse entertainment that will please all. And that includes jazz at its finest.
~ Marcia Hillman