2020 JSJBF Scholarships

Congratulations! Ruby Riggio, Clay Kunego, Jacob Fisher, and Zachary Doberentz

Saturday afternoon, Tom Baldino, President of the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation welcomed scholarship recipients, family members, Board members, and (live streaming) Facebook friends. This JSJBF scholarship presentation was like no other we have had before due to COVID-19. Like all of you, we are facing an uncertain future, but one thing we are certain of is that these four recipients are all deserving and will continue their music-based education in whatever way necessary during the current pandemic. We are proud of their accomplishments and musical talents and are pleased to continue a very important part of our mission by awarding these scholarships.

Board members Doris Lazur and Dennis Eschbach hosted the event as a lovely garden party in their yard where we were able to social distance and celebrate. Christine Zemela, the head of our Education Committee presented the awards and highlighted some of each recipient’s musical accomplishments.

Ruby Riggio 

Ruby was awarded the Mark LaRochelle Memorial Scholarship. She sings, plays ukulele, and Keys. Ruby began performing when she was 8 years old, singing with bands and in talent shows. She has performed at The Count Basie Theater and joined their RockIt music program. She taught herself how to play the ukulele and started piano lessons. In addition to the Mark LaRochell Youth Open Mic Night, she has joined the Rock’n Music Academy’s house band program and has performed at Holmdel Theatre Company Open Mic, The Chubby Pickle, Jamien’s, and the Water Witch. Ruby hopes to continue performing as she pursues her music education.

My first time singing and playing ukulele to an audience was at the Mark LaRochelle Youth Open Mic.” – Ruby Riggio

Clay Kunego

Clay was awarded the Jerry Topinka Memorial Scholarship. Jerry Topinka’s brother attended the ceremony and congratulated Clay. Clay plays guitar, bass, keyboards, sings, and composes. He is in the popular band – Sunsets From Jupiter  He has studied with Rock’n Music and is a graduate of Middletown H.S. South. Clay continues to study at HiVoltage Studios in Red Bank and determined that he wanted to pursue audio engineering. In addition to guitar theory and technique lessons – he is taking vocal training as well.

If I had to pinpoint one place where I was truly able to come out of my shell and start evolving as a musician and taking a greater interest in the music industry as a whole it would definitely be the Mark LaRochelle Youth Open Mic Night.” – Clay Kunego

Jacob Fisher

Jacob was awarded the Lloyd R. Daley Memorial Scholarship. Jacob plays guitar and is the lead guitarist of the popular band – Thelonius Funk. He learned to play guitar at age 7. Joined a band called Know Limit which played mostly rock music, 70s through ‘90s rock music. Jacob chose to attend Red Bank Regional for their emphasis on the arts and became a guitar major learning both classical and baroque music. “This genre added a different flair to my playing, and throughout high school, my music taste shifted towards funk and jazz“.

Currently, my style consists of all of these genres, and my tone and sound have certainly developed into what I can call my own.” – Jacob Fisher

Zachary Doberentz

Zachary was awarded the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Scholarship. Zachary plays Drums. He was not able to make the ceremony but did receive his award. Zachary is a Toms River High School graduate. He is a drummer, interested in fusion, smooth jazz, bebop, progressive rock, R&R, progressive metal, and solo drum/percussion performance music. He has served as the First chair percussionist Toms River South Symphonic Band and Section Leader for Drumline in Toms River South Marching Band. He has also played with: Garden State Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, Toms River Schools Orchestra, Ocean County College Concert Band, and Ocean County College Jazz Band.

Dennis Eschbach presenting Zachary’s award later that afternoon.

If I’m playing with other people, or just playing in general, I’m having a good time and I’m happy.” – Zachary Doberent


Here are more photos of the event. Thank you Lisa Amendola for sharing these photos! Lisa is a professional photographer, be sure to check out her Instagram page.

Congratulations again to the recipients and best of luck on your musical education! We look forward to hearing much more from you!