DeMiero Jazz Festival sets sight on national recognition

Kathy Kosins, jazz vocalist delights the crowd, accompanied by Jay Leonhart
Jazz vocalist Kathy Kosins, accompanied by Jay Leonhart, delights the crowd.

In spite of the cold weather, it was an evening of hot performances and warm friendships as the Friends of Frank DeMiero filed in for an intimate evening of jazz at Roy’s Place – Kennelly Keys Music in Lynnwood on Wednesday, March 5. The lively occasion kicked off DeMiero Jazz Fest 2014 and provided the stage for impromptu performances and a program planned around the festival’s history, achievements and dreams for the future of one of the most recognized Northwest events for vocal jazz.

Centerpiece for the event was the awarding of seven Tenuto Awards recognizing those individuals “who have made significant contributions to jazz, and to music education, enabling young people to live their lives to their fullest value”. Some past recipients of the Tenuto Awards are John Pizzarelli, Greta Matassa, Anita Kerr, Diane Schuur and Dee Daniels.

Frank DeMiero, founder of the jazz festival, joked and jousted with the boisterous crowd in between presentations of awards and performances by jazz vocalists Bruce Forman, Kathy Kosins, Jay Leonhart, Josh Nelson, and the Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet. The guest artists and jazz clinicians for this year’s festival also include Alvester Garnett, Greta Matassa, Charlene Wade, and Soundsation.

First up to receive a Tenuto Award was bassist Jay Leonhart who, just moments prior to receiving his award, regaled the crowd – musically and cleverly – with the challenges of traveling with a bass in our TSA-regulated world. Tenuto Award recipients also included Patrick McMahan Jr., one of the festival sponsors; Louise Uriu, volunteer; Kathy Miller, elementary and junior high music teacher; and Vince DeMiero, who leads the organization’s production staff and holds a board position with the organization. Also awarded were members of the popular Hi-Lo’s – Gene Puerling, Don Shelton, Bob Strasen and Bob Morse.

Although there to get the scoop on this year’s Tenuto Awards, I had the opportunity to interview Motown artist Kathy Kosins. I couldn’t have been more surprised when she opened our chat with the “We’ve met before,” line. Our paths had crossed at another jazz event, she reassured me as she sipped wine and nibbled on hors d’oeuvres. “OK,” I thought ,and the evening took an unexpected turn toward beauty regimens and how to survive life on the road.

Interested in what she had to say? I thought so!

Emily Hill: Edmonds is happy to be welcoming you from your hometown of Detroit. You must be on the road a lot.

Kathy Kosins: I am! I travel 150 days a year and am going to Canada after I leave Edmonds.

EH: That’s a lot of travel – and arrangements. Who manages your schedule and travel details.
KK: I do! . . . always have, actually. I handle all of my own media and bookings. I’ve become more and more busy and will be interviewing an intern/assistant when I get back to Detroit.

EH: You look great for someone with such a heavy travel schedule. How do you manage to look so vibrant and fresh? You must be a tea-drinking vegetarian.

KK: (Laughs) Far from it. (Holding up her wine glass.) I drink, I smoke. But you know what they say, “All things in moderation. I enjoy myself!”

EH: Your career has spanned over 30 years. How has social media and relating to your fans changed over the past five to 10 years?

KK: Well, I would rather pick up the phone and talk than bother with Facebook. (Kathy’s Facebook page is here.

EH: Do you use Twitter at all?

KK: No! I hate it!

(I didn’t mention to Kathy that in the past four years, I have wracked up over 160,000 tweets, stretched between three of my own Twitter accounts. We moved on to other topics after realizing we were bookend opposites where social media is concerned.)

EH: What do you like about the Northwest?

KK: Well, the jazz scene is great! And, I have family here – my brother is a clinical psychologist in Seattle and being here gives me an opportunity to visit him.

I also spoke with Tom Hawksford, president of the Friends of Frank DeMiero Board of Directors, who explained why learning instrumental jazz and jazz vocals “in the Frank DeMiero way” works so well for aspiring musicians. “Frank pulls from the abilities of each student, capitalizing on their musical strengths” without dunning them for what they have yet to learn. Hawksford, who met DeMiero in 1960, credits the DeMiero Jazz Festival with its success because, “everybody gets a chance to perform.”

And, if a growing attendance is any indication, the DeMiero Jazz Festival is very successful. Sixty-five jazz choir groups are attending this year’s festival, up from fifty-four groups last year representing Alaska, Idaho, and Oregon.

Once the awards were handed out, the members of the gathering hugged, toasted each other, and recalled their shared history, as thoughts turned to the festival’s future. Dee Daniels, singer, pianist, and multi-talented jazz musician, and the festival’s Artistic Director took the stage to share her vision. Revealing snippets of a recent discussion that she had with DeMiero recently, Daniels imparted that the next pinnacle for the Friends of Frank DeMiero to reach is acknowledgment of the DeMiero Jazz Festival as a nationally recognized jazz festival.

Considering that 1,550 students, plus educators, along with vocal and instrumentally gifted jazz clinicians participate in the festival’s day-time performance activities; and that the Edmonds Center for the Arts performance hall will fill to capacity over the three evening performances of the festival – the dream that the DeMiero Jazz Festival is a recipient of national recognition seems on the horizon.

DeMiero Jazz Fest
Evening Programs ~ 7 p.m.
Edmonds Center for the Arts
410 4th Ave. N., Edmonds, WA

Dee Daniels, Thursday night
Kathy Kosins & the Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet, Friday night
Soundsations, Saturday night

Tickets for the 2014 DeMiero Jazz Fest range from $25/students; $35/general admission; $45/preferred admission; and $70/VIP seating and reception. Ticket may be purchased by calling the ECA Box Office at 425-275-9595, online or in person at the ECA Box Office located at 410 Fourth Ave. N.

— By Emily Hill

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