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Guest vocalist Amanda Carr will perform at the Vermont Jazz Center.

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BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Jazz Center’s Big Band will present its Annual Scholarship Gala on Friday at 8 p.m. This year, the band will be featuring vocalist Amanda Carr who has sung with the Boston Pops, Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller’s Orchestras and many others.

The VJC Big Band, under the leadership of musical director Rob Freeberg, is made up of area professional musicians who come together to enjoy the camaraderie and swinging tunes while raising money for the VJC’s Scholarship Fund.

December’s annual gala is the VJC’s only fundraiser for the VJC Scholarship Fund. Prior to the pandemic, the VJC annually bequeathed $30,000 scholarships, offsetting fees for ensembles, private lessons and its summer jazz workshop. The VJC intends to reenergize its in-person educational programs this winter by presenting a broader range of class offerings with generous scholarships as needed to all that apply; monies brought in from this gala will enrich that goal.

Two years have passed since the VJC has hosted a live swing-dance. But, on Friday, the sounds of big band jazz will once again fill the Cotton Mill venue with joyous sound. This concert will be a hybrid event with both livestream and in-person components. Dancers can create intimate dance parties in their homes or choose to dance to the sounds of a real, live big band. All attendees and musicians will be vaccinated and everyone who is not actively actively playing wind instruments or singing will wear masks. The livestream for home viewers can be accessed on the Vermont Jazz Center’s website ( or via its Facebook Live page.

Guest vocalist Amanda Carr is a Boston legend. She became acquainted with the Great American Songbook through her parents who were both esteemed jazz-pros based out of Boston. Her father, Nick Capezuto, toured with Glenn Miller, Louis Prima and Woody Herman. Her mother, Nancy Carr, was house vocalist at the Totem Pole Ballroom on the Charles River. Amanda Carr has sung at festivals around the world including two appearances as headliner at the EuroJazz Festival in Italy. She has released five albums under her own name, including Common Thread with the Ken Hadley Big Band. She is the composer of “Strong,” a Boston anthem which uplifted the city’s spirits after the Boston Marathon bombings and again during the pandemic.

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The VJC Big Band is fortunate to have trumpeter Rob Freeberg’s guidance as musical director. He is a seasoned veteran who conducts the large ensemble drawing on his respect for the jazz legacy, an unerring ear and decades of experience directing his own Big Band in the New York City region. Freeberg moved to Dummerston in 2012, after retiring from his position as director of bands at New Rochelle High School, New York, where he taught for 30 years. Freeberg is the musical director of the VJC Sextet and also performs with the Windham Orchestra, its brass quintet, the Bennington County Choral Society and the Keene Chorale.

This year, the VJC Big Band celebrates 17 years of performances thanks in great part to band manager Sherm Fox’s continued persistence and organizational efforts; he is the glue that has held the band together since 2004, taking on the chore of herding 17 jazz cats into formation. The VJC Big Band was originally a collaborative project initiated by Fox and the swinging musicologist Howard Brofsky who served as Vermont Jazz Center president and mentor for decades. The VJC Big Band has performed concerts with featured artist including Houston Person, Dave Stryker, Samirah Evans, Mark Anagnostopulos, Rebecca Holtz, Kevin Mahogany and a memorable evening of Latin Jazz with timbalero Eguie Castrillo. Joining vocalist Amanda Carr this year in the 2021 VJC Big Band will be trumpeters Don Anderson, Rick Anderson, Ryan Kapoor, Dave Dell and Rob Freeberg; woodwind players Michael Zsoldos, Sherm Fox, Bob Stabach, Carl Clements and Donna Morse; trombonists John Wheeler, Bob Thies, Dave Sporny and Caroline Cole; and rhythm section members Eugene Uman (piano), Wes Brown (bass), Steve Rice (drums).

The jazz center is especially grateful for the generosity of stalwart supporters Dianne and Steve Lieberman who for several years have underwritten the Big Band’s musician’s fees and served as concession organizers for this uplifting event. Their continued support and loving connection with the community is something the jazz center is ever grateful for. The jazz center also appreciates the support of the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Humanities Council, the New England Foundation of the Arts and the National Endowment of the Arts. Thanks also to media support from the Brattleboro Reformer and the Commons.

Dance the night away and savor the sounds of swing music. Be sure to mark Friday on your calendars, polish your dancing shoes and put on your finest clothes to prepare for this fun evening. Make your reservations early, as this concert always sells out quickly and the center is only permitting 50 percent capacity. Admission is $25-plus general admission. No table seating is available this year in order to maximize social distancing and dancing space. Dancing encouraged, chairs may be fewer than attendees. Tickets can be reserved by online at, by email at, by phone 802-254-9088, ext. 1. Handicapped access is available by calling the center to schedule a time for one of our staff to meet your party.

Eugene Uman is the director of the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro.