WCJO set for Brandon Park concert this weekend

PHOTO PROVIDED Members of the Williamsport City Jazz Orchestra pose with their instruments.

Founded in 2011, the Williamsport City Jazz Orchestra was created to give local musicians an opportunity to play jazz music for passionate cro­wds and to foster an appr­e­ciation for jazz in youn­ger generations.

To that end, the orchestra has scheduled a concert for 7 p.m. this Sunday at the Brandon Park Bandshell. The sh­ow promises to bring a big band sound, with songs that range from the familiar to the obscure.

“We try to play at Brandon Park annually,” said WCJO drummer Bobby Leidhecker. “The whole Brandon Park idea is just a part of our community outreach.”

The Williamsport City Jazz Orchestra was founded by Eddie Severn and William Ciabattari, who turned Leidhecker and a host of other local jazz enthusiasts throughout the area to help bring their great idea to fruition. Today the group is comprised of 17 well-accomplished musicians, each of whom brings their own impressive resume and musical flavor to the orchestra.

“Several of us met at the Bullfrog with this concept (for the orchestra) in mind, and we sat around and talked about ideas for the group,” said Leidhecker. “We came up with the name and then pursued the non-profit status, because we survive on donor contributions and grants.”

Many members of the orchestra are current or retired music educators from around the region. That includes its founders, Severn and Ciabattari, who teach at Lock Haven University and Lycoming College, respectively.

“Many (members) are band directors and most have a job that involves working with jazz ensembles,” said Leidhecker.

Under normal circumstances, the orchestra would get in two rehearsals before a show, but before their performance on Sunday they will have just one practice session. That’s because the group has some people coming in from out of town, and the show will involve music that band members are already familiar with.

“We are getting together on the afternoon of the gig and we will run over the charts then,” Leidhecker said.

Though the band will be performing many tunes that it has played at previous shows around the area, each new show provides something different from the group.

“Jazz music is never the same twice,” Leidhecker said. “Even though we play the same charts, it is always fresh and new because of the improvisational aspect of it. Sometimes we have different soloists play on a tune — we kind of just mix it up.

“We have quite a library of music that we share with Lycoming College — we are kind of partnered with them — and we are able to do some of the same music year after year, but we give it a different flare.”

As a special treat, the concert at Brandon Park will also see two young jazz musicians — Tate Berkey and Gabriel Severn — join the band on stage for a few numbers.

“They are two outstanding jazz students,” Leidhecker said. “It will help showcase their talents and show that jazz is alive with the youth.”

For more information on the Williamsport City Jazz Orchestra, visit www.wcjo.org.