OSPAC Jazz and Latino Music Festival

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The Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center, a non-profit organization with a mission to bring high caliber performances, has a strong commitment to arts education and thus offers it at free or minimal cost to the public through its annual Jazz and World Music Workshop. 

The Saturday, September 6th performance was cancelled due to torrential rain.  However, the show must go on, so it’s been rescheduled to Saturday, September 20th, with the same artist lineup as Saturday, September 6th, except for Allen Harris, who performed on Sunday, September 7th.  And what a performance he gave.  People crowded around the band shelter, spread out on the lawn, frequented the vendors, got massages by beautiful Crystal Lake, painted the music, and cheered  Harris, Locke, Lovano, Cecil Brooks , Harry Allen, Kate Baker, Nilson Matta and Brazilian Voyage, while enjoying the warm sun and taking in the good vibes.  All and all it was a perfect day and the mixed crowd of Jazz and Latino music aficionados definitely showed their appreciation. 

This reporter took a $10.00 roundtrip train ride on New Jersey Transit, where I enjoyed the scenic ride to South Orange, New Jersey.  In the train station’s back Parking Lot, I hopped into the white shuttle van marked Health instead of OSPAC, wherein I took a leisurely ride out to the Festival located in West Orange.  Admittance was only $10.00 for adults and free for children, 12 and under, so it was quite inexpensive for a day of fun, food, sun, and music.  I chatted with Kate Baker, the Executive Director, who was very pleased with the turnout, while photographer Donovan Gopie snapped photos of the Jazz and Latino bands.  I even got a massage to soothe my “reporters back.” You know, those back kinks reporters occasionally get from lugging batteries, cameras, tapes, tape recorders, pads and pencils.

I had the opportunity to chat with Allen Harris who was having a wonderful day meeting his fans and selling his CDs.  In fact, I noticed that most of the talent hung around long after their performance.  It was just that kind of leisurely day when everyone was in good spirits.

OSPAC is a wonderful venue.  Larry Pantirer of Millennium Homes donated the Amphitheater and surrounding three acres of land to the township of West Orange in memory of Oskar Schindler, who saved hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust, including Pantirer's father, Murray Pantirer. OSPAC is the only performing arts theater in the United States named for Oskar Schindler.  OSPAC Sponsors were: Commerce Bank; Millennium Homes; Ferential Systems Inc; Leaf, Saltzman, Manganelli Pfeil & Tendler LLP; Reckson Associates Realty Corp.; Matzel & Mumford; PSE&G; and WBGO-FM.

Singer and OSPAC Executive Director, Kate Baker, has been associated with the OPAC Jazz Festival for 6 years.  She discussed the OSPAC Jazz Festival Summer Workshop, which offers students of all ages the opportunity to study with an internationally renowned faculty of jazz musicians.  The students performed on Sunday with the OSPAC Jazz Workshop Big Band.  “These talented musicians, (13 and up) high school, college age and older, learn their craft from the masters. The Summer Workshop emphasizes the mastery of playing and singing jazz and world music. “Our goal is to improve the students’ musicianship and help facilitate creativity.  Students who attend the workshop will improve in their chosen style of music with a greater appreciation for all types of music, whether it is jazz, rock and roll, pop, funk, fusion, R&B or hip hop. Students receive individual attention to help improve their skills. This workshop is one the students will remember for years to come,” stated Baker who is instrumental in assuring the yearly success of the event. “The Festival continues to grow and I consider myself fortunate to be able to get the wonderful talent and assistance from all those whose energy goes into making OSPAC what it is,” stated Kate with gratitude.

 “We had a wonderful lineup this year of jazz and Latino artists so we invite people to come out on Saturday, September 20th to close out the last remaining warm days within this beautiful environment.  It is very conducive to families and music lovers alike. People can stroll throughout the lawn and picnic alongside the beautiful lake.  Attendees can bring their own food, chairs, blankets and mats or purchase food from the international food and unique items from vendors who sell their wares at the event,” said Kate who has performed at other festivals including the Euro-Meet Jazz Festival, The Texaco Jazz Series in New York City, Liberty State Park Jazz Concert Festival, Berkshire Jazz Festival, the William Paterson Jazz Room Concert Series, The Carini Jazz Festival, and The Pergine Spettacolo Jazz Festival, et al.

Saturday September 20

1:00 pm   Carrie Jackson Quartet
2:00 pm   Maucha Adnet Quartet - Celebrating 50 Years of Bossa Nova!
3:00 pm   Duke Ellington Legacy Band Featuring Norman Simmons and Nancy Reed
4:00 pm   Kate Baker Quintet featuring Vic Juris with special guest Judi Silvano
5:00 pm   Dave Stryker and the West Orange All Stars with special guest Billy Hart
6:00 pm   Geri Allen Trio
7:00 pm   Grupo Latin Vibe

The festival will be emceed by WBGO’s Gary Walker, who will present the festivities against an open-air setting, complete with artisans, crafts, a health spa center, entertainment, and activities for children. The weekend will also include “Paint the Music” led by Nitza Horner, who is a teaching artist and freelance educator affiliated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Via the Paint the Music” project anyone can pick up a paint brush and paint the music as it sounds to them.  I am very excited about this aspect of the Festival.  I think it will be a fun thing to do,” claimed Kate.

Driving directions are on the site.  The free OPAC shuttle will pick up festival attendees at the South Orange Train station and drive them to the Festival in West Orange, New Jersey.  Interested parties can learn more about the festival and shuttle schedule at http://www.ospac.org.

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