Unexpected meeting leads to friendship, Jazz and Blues Festival
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
From the back ball behind the seats at Cascades Park, Tom Dahorski had a clear view of every performer who came up on the amphitheater theater stage.
He wasn’t going to miss the Florida Jazz and Blues Festival. Too much good music to do otherwise, he said on the final evening of the event Sunday.
“I like music,” Dahorski said. “I don’t care if its jazz, blues, classical or rock. I like quality music and I like to get close enough to see the expressions on the performers’ faces. If they are enjoying it you could see the intensity.”
The lineup of music that Dahorski and hundreds of other music lovers heard at the two-day festival has been an idea long in the making.
That was until Jon Brown saw Scotty Barnhart in a performance with Wynton Marsalis at Ruby Diamond, featuring some local musician. Brown’s curiosity over the man who was introduced as having Tallahassee ties led to a friendship that became the impetus for the festival coming to life for the first time last fall.
Some time later, Brown, who was already involved in initial planning for a festival, approached Scott Barnhart. They talked about how impressed Brown was when he performed with Marsalis.
Then, the conversation shifted to the possibility of getting Barnhart involved in the festival. Barnhart had been approached by several people about the same idea for several years.
He was leery that his conversation with Brown might be just like the others that went nowhere. It didn’t take long for him to be persuaded otherwise.
“When I heard him talking and I realized what he was doing, I said OK,” Barnhart said. “Anybody could talk a good game but he followed through. Jon was the right person at the right time for this.”
They went about knocking on every door in government for funding and eventually came up with enough support to make the event happen. They ended up with a budget of $241,000.
There were some minor hiccups but the driving force of their Tallahassee connection was too much to be denied.
“This is my community,” said Brown. “I was born and raised here. I was born on the Southside. We go places and see different things that Tallahassee can be. That’s all great, but somebody has to build. Somebody has to do that work.
“There are lots of people doing that work but sometimes you see something that needs to be done and you have to do it. This was one of the things.”
In its first year, the Jazz and Blues Festival raised enough money to give $11,000 in scholarships to music students at FSU, FAMU, TCC and Leon County Schools. The donation will be $3,000 more this year, Brown said.
Through Barnhart’s ties to the music industry, they’ve managed to bring some impressive performers to town. This year’s lineup included the Wycliffe Gordon Quartet, Jon Faddis Quartet and Mr. Sipp.
Barnhart brought the Count Basie Orchestra, which he directs, to town last year. He performed this past weekend with vocalist Carmen Bradford and again with Gordon’s band.
This year the organizers took their hospitality up a notch, placing a group of FSU music students to perform at Tallahassee International Airport as some of the performers arrived.
The weekend weather of rain and a hard chill played havoc with the event, making for small crowds. But Barnhart, who serves as artistic director for the festival, vowed to continue pushing the event for years to come.
“We are going to make this thing grow,” he said. “We just have to keep making it better and better.”