World renowned jazz musician and composer Jay Rowe will hold his annual Smooth Jazz for Scholars benefit concert April 26 and 27 in Milford to support the program he says helped shape him as a musician.
Over the past 16 years, Rowe’s concerts have raised approximately $81,200 for music education.
Rowe, who lives in Milford, donates a portion of the ticket sales to the Milford Public Schools music department as a way of thanking the educators who were there at the beginning of his musical career.
Growing up, Rowe was living in a musical enclave of sorts: His mother, Mia Distasi, came from a musical family. A local teacher, she liked music and encouraged her son’s musical interests. The Wilcox Road neighborhood where he grew up hummed with a rhythm: car radios belted tunes along the streets.
“I liked the Beatles from the time I was three,” Rowe said. “I asked Santa for Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band when I was four.”
He started playing guitar when he was eight, and then took piano lessons from Milford piano teacher Pat Neznick.
All the while school served as an outlet for his skill and fueled his passion — teachers and administrators encouraged him to play for school assemblies, and there were music clubs and activities. His sixth grade teacher, Leslie Frankel, one day suggested to his mother that she sign him up for lessons at the Neighborhood Music School in New Haven, and that was another career defining move.
“If I’d been encouraged any less, I’d probably still be doing what I do now,” Rowe said. “But school made music really become my identity.”
Rowe has performed and recorded with the elite in the world of jazz and has played in many major jazz festivals across the U.S., and around the world, including Portugal, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Norway, Germany, Holland, South Africa, China, Japan and Indonesia.
As a solo artist, he has recorded and released six CDs, “A Dream I Had” (1994), “Jay Walking” (1997), “Laugh Out Loud” (2001),“Red, Hot and Smooth” (2006), “Live At Daniel Street” (2011), and most recently, “Smooth Ride” (2016).
The Smooth Jazz for Scholars concert will include two separate artist line-ups, and tickets may be purchased for either – or both – nights. Friday, April 26 features guitarist Nick Colionne, saxophonist Marion Meadows and guitarist Chieli Minucci. Saturday, April 27 features guitarist Steve Oliver, saxophonists Jessy J and Eric Darius and pianist Brian Simpson.
The event will take place at the Parsons Complex Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 70 W. River Street, Milford.
Doors open at 7 p.m., and show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 for one night, and $75 for both nights. The first 250 tickets sold are for reserved seating, and thereafter will be for general admission seating. Group discounts are also available.
“Expanding to a two-night lineup has been a big hit,” said Rowe, who initially held a one-night concert fund-raiser. “Each year, we welcome many of our long-time supporters who travel to Milford from out of state, as well as the many local resident jazz aficionados.”
Tickets can be purchased locally from Jay Rowe or these local outlets: Cafe Atlantique, 33 River St. Milford, CT., The Canvas Patch, 5 River St. Milford, CT., Milford Fine Arts Center, 40 Railroad Ave. Milford, CT., and Arciuolo’s Shoe Store, 74 Broad St. Milford, CT.
Online tickets are available at 17thannualsmoothjazzforscholars.eventbrite.com. Tickets may also be purchased by sending a check or money order payable to Smooth Jazz For Scholars Inc., P.O. Box 3723, Milford, CT 06460.
Limited sponsorships are still available, and raffle/silent auction items are still being accepted.
“I am so pleased to be able to bring a show of this quality to Milford for two nights,” Rowe said. “It gives residents the opportunity to see a first-rate festival-like performance right here in town, without having to travel to New Haven, Hartford, or New York City. And, of course, I am so pleased to be able to contribute in this way to our schools. To bring awareness and attention to the importance of music education is why we do this every year.”
For more information, visit jayrowemusic.com, or call 203-874-4150.