Jo Wymer’s Jazz Squad Play Scholarship Night

by Christine Zemla & Tom Baldino

On a cool damp night that felt more like early spring than the beginning of summer, Jo Wymer and her excellent group of musicians entertained our Reckless Steamy Nights’ regulars, along with those in attendance for our annual scholarship presentations. This year things would be slightly different than in the past, as three scholarships would be awarded by Christine Zemla, our board educator and Community Outreach Chairperson, with a fourth soon to be awarded to a Clarksdale, Mississippi student, as part of our ongoing partnership with the Mississippi Delta. This comes on the heels of the exciting weekend of music presented by Clarksdale’s Anthony “Big A” Sherrod and his band, showcasing not just their amazing sounds but also providing us with a great opportunity to talk about the rich heritage of Delta blues music and the obvious connections to the sounds of the shore – rock ‘n’ roll!

To kick off the night, JSJBF member Jo Wymer, an award-winning vocalist and multi- instrumentalist, assembled a band that included singer Janet B, bassist Joe Peterson who recently played the Jazz Café with his member band the Weeks Peterson Quintet, guitarist Gino Simonelli and drummer/educator member Bobby Boyd. The first set started out with a sultry version of Light My Fire, followed by an awesome medley of Marvin Gaye tunes. Wymer’s performance wowed everyone present, not only with her vocal arrangements but through her instrumentals as well. The Red Bank Woman’s Club provided the perfect setting on a cool night for the sounds of this month’s Reckless Steamy Nights – given the steamy sounds of Jo Wymer and the band!

During the break, with family & friends in attendance, our scholarship recipients came forward. The impressive resume of our applicants documented not only their musical accomplishments but the ways in which music has shaped their lives. According to Mercedes Boylen, who received the Dennis T. Eschbach Memorial Scholarship: Music changed me. Music rewired my brain. Music made me into the woman I am today. The moment I picked up that bass, I fell in love with it. The moment I fell in love with music, I realized that I was going to be a musician for the rest of my life.

Dedicated jazz guitarist Alexander Rausch, recipient of the Jerry Topinka Memorial Scholarship, made a compelling case for double majoring in both music and biochemistry, citing the perhaps not-so-obvious synergy between the two fields of study. Aiden Villa, unable to attend due to a previous commitment, received the Mark LaRochelle Memorial Scholarship. Villa’s experience already includes having traveled to 22 cities as part of the national tour of the Broadway production of “School of Rock: The Musical.” The Lloyd R. Daley Memorial Scholarship will soon be awarded to a student in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Details to follow next month!

Always one of our absolute favorite nights of the year, we love acknowledging the tremendous successes of our scholarship winners – and do hope that they will stay in touch as they continue in their academic and musical careers!