Vermont Jazz Center Sextet

Rob Freeberg, trumpet, moved to Vermont after 30 years as Director of Bands at New Rochelle High School, New York. He also directed a professional big band, a community jazz band and the Iona College Pep Band, and performed as a free-lance trumpeter in the metropolitan NY area. Rob currently directs VJC’s Big Band, serves on its Board of Directors and has taught in its Summer Jazz Workshop. He also performs with the Windham Philharmonic, directs the Jazz Workshop and coaches chamber ensembles at Brattleboro Union HS, and has taught classes at Bellows Falls Union HS and the Putney School.

Bill Ballard, alto sax, fell in love with jazz after seeing Louis Armstrong & His All-Stars while in 3d grade. Bill’s experience ranges from the Army Band at Ft. Bliss, Texas, to soul bands, to numerous bebop ensembles and jazz arrangements. He has worked as a piano technician for 50 years, maintaining and tuning many fine and historic instruments in the Brattleboro area.

Ron Kelley, tenor sax, toured with the Bread and Puppet Theater as a young adult and led a New Orleans style jazz band in New York City. He was a music teacher at Leland and Gray Union High School from 1994–2017 where he taught middle school band, vocal music, samba band, and JV Jazz Band. He was on the faculty of the Governor’s Institute on the Arts from 1994 to 2017. Currently, he is playing in a variety of bands throughout Vermont including the Bread and Puppet Circus Band, the Zara Bode Little Big Band, the Celebration Brass Band, The Woodpeckers and Ron Kelley and the Hot Noodles.

Cathy Martin, piano, studied classical music most of her life, and is a graduate of Boston Conservatory of Music. She has enjoyed playing and singing in several wedding and cover bands in the Boston area. She studied jazz piano later in her music career with the late Charlie Banacos, and is always fortunate to have a lesson with VJC Director Eugene Uman. Cathy is a Church Music Director, and also works as an accompanist for local theater and choral groups. She is happy to be in Vermont and a part of the VJC.

Wim Auer, bass, has worked professionally as a musician (now, semi-professionally) in New England since 1975. He spent a year in Cambridge, England playing with the jazz group Antares. He moved to southern Vermont in 1980 and played with well-known area bands, including The Prime Rib Band and Simba. He is a founder of Chroma Technology, where he currently develops business and production control software.

Drummer Steve Rice is the band director and music department head at Brattleboro Union High School where he has served for thirty-five years. He directs the band and jazz band. His work as an educator and leader in the arts has been honored by the Vermont Arts Council, Vermont Music Educators Association, Vermont House of Representatives, Vermont Alliance for Arts Education, and the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union. He is also active as a performing musician throughout the region, playing percussion and drum set in a variety of professional and amateur ensembles, including the Vermont Jazz Center Big Band and the Windham Philharmonic. His teachers have included Joe Hunt and Peter Tanner. 

River Mill Flutes

The River Mill Flutes are named for the historic 19th century mill complex of Keene, NH, situated along the Ashuelot River, where the group rehearses. The flutists of the quartet are from the Monadnock Region of southwestern New Hampshire.  The group performs on instruments of the flute family:  piccolo, C flute, alto, and bass.

The Players: 

  • Julie Armstrong
  • Lisa Bryan
  • Rebecca Sayles
  • Beth Anne West

The recordings from River Mill Flutes below include two pieces for three C Flutes and Alto Flute:

  1. Rondeau by Jean Joseph Mouret (1682-1738)
  2. Celestial Bodies by Gary Schocker (1959- )

La Femme Oboe Trio

The members of La Femme Oboe Trio, Frida Backe, Melissa Mandrell and Emily Wrubel, all started playing the oboe at 10 or 12 years of age. After playing for a decade or so, taking lessons and playing with various groups and orchestras, they each took a break from the oboe spanning a few years (Frida) to 35+ years (Emily). All three eventually found their way to the Concord Music School and began taking lessons as adults with the wonderful Stefani Burke. In 2015 Stef suggested forming an adult oboe trio and the rest is history! Regularly performing at recitals at the music school, the trio plays everything from baroque music to their signature contemporary piece, “The Happy Duck Waltz,” by Tuukka Jokilehto. Although they enjoy performing, the weekly coaching session with Stef of music, collaboration and laughter is the highlight of every week.

Practice Session

The Happy Duck Waltz

Jeff Warner: Traditional songs and Stories

Here’s a link to Jeff’s website: Jeff Warner

Jeff Warner is among the nation’s foremost performer/interpreters of traditional music. His songs from the lumber camps, fishing villages and mountain tops of America connect 21st century audiences with the everyday lives–and artistry–of 19th century Americans. Jeff grew up listening to the songs and stories of his father Frank Warner and the traditional singers his parents met during their folksong collecting trips through rural America. He accompanied his parents on their later field trips and is the editor of his mother’s book, Traditional American Folk Songs: From the Anne and Frank Warner Collection.

Jeff has performed widely, from large festivals in the UK, to clubs, festivals and schools across America. He plays concertina, banjo, guitar and several “pocket” instruments, including bones and spoons.  A resident of Portsmouth since the 1990’s, he has performed widely, from large festivals in the UK, to clubs, festivals and schools across America. He plays concertina, banjo, guitar and several “pocket” instruments, including bones and spoons.

“There are three requirements of a good performance: awesome music, the sharing of knowledge, so that the audience leaves knowing something they didn’t before, and the chance to laugh. You gave us all three; you nailed it!”

—Sandy Lafleur, Acoustic Café, Milford, NH