Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Berks emerging jazz artist Nathan Bellott to host alumni jam in Reading

Nathan Bellott can recall playing the saxophone in the jazz band in seventh grade as a student in the Governor Mifflin School District. It led him to playing with the Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band before heading to SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music and later to The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan.

Now Bellott, at 21, comes home to Reading with his jazz group to play some original compositions and jazz standards and host a jam session featuring former members of the Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., at the GoggleWorks. It's all part of a special week-long music education experience, "Get JazzED," April 5-11, with live performances and workshops.

It's all happening during the 23rd annual Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest, which also kicks off Friday and runs through April 14, presented by the Berks Arts Council. Its opening night concert features four-time Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves who joins the Reading Symphony Orchestra as part of RSO's 100th anniversary celebration. The event is set for 7:30 p.m., at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center.

Highlights of the "Get JazzED" series include performances by the Berks High School All-Star Jazz Chorus, with guest director June Thomas, and the Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band, under the direction of guest conductor Dr. Neil Wetzel, on Saturday beginning at 7 p.m.; and the Reading High School "Castleaires," under the direction of Charlie DiCarne, on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Besides Bellott, his jazz group includes roommate Manuel Schmiedel of Germany, on piano, Anton Defade of Pittsburgh, on bass, and SUNY classmate George Heid III of Pittsburgh, on drums. Bellott currently resides in Brooklyn and stays in tune with the Big Apple's jazz scene and such venues as The 55 Bar, Smalls Jazz Club, and The Village Vanguard. He's played at venues including Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, The Deerhead Inn, and Birdland, and shared the stage with Bill Goodwin, Donny McCaslin, Bobby Sanabria, Bob Dorough, Wynton Marsalis, David Liebman, and Arturo O'Farrill. Among those he's studied with are Tim Price, Jon Gordon, Todd Coolman, Charles Blenzig, Pete Malinverni, Mark Vinci, Hal Galper, Ralph Lalama, Steve Wilson, and David DeJesus. He currently studies with David Binney.

Bellott recently joined some of his fellow musicians in Pittsburgh as part of a collective jazz CD project, "Elevations," which was released in March. He's been attending the Berks Jazz Fest for several years, rubbing elbows with some of the world's jazz greats. For the past two summers, he taught saxophone and creative classes at the Reading Summer Music Institute. He has another year of studies at The New School before he tests the waters with his own compositions, hoping to be a full-time performer. But, he said, he also enjoys teaching.

"One thing I learned as a young musician was to keep it interesting and fun," Bellott said. "When I was teaching back in Reading, I remember the fun we had being a creative group, especially during exploratory sessions."

Bellott said he hopes Friday's audience at the alumni jam will experience and appreciate a great sense of what's happening in the jazz scene with the younger generation.

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Celebrity collector Butch Patrick, better known as "Eddie Munster" on the hit 60s TV series, "The Munsters," will be guest speaker at the History Expo on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum in Allentown. Patrick, whose own personal collection ranges from Beatles memorabilia to vintage records and, yes, even monster items, will speak on the importance of studying and preserving the past.

The free day of history entertainment will include a display of antique cars and tractors, and rare bicycles. There also will be encampments of the French and Indian War and the Civil War, with re-enactors from Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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The Camerata Singers will perform a spring concert on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., at Wesley Church in Bethlehem. The program will include the dramatic cantata by Ralph Vaughan Williams, "Dona Nobis Pacem," with the poetry of Walt Whitman, followed by Gabriel Faure's warm and lyrical "Requiem." The Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra, with soloists Leslie Johnson, soprano and Dashon Burton, bass-baritone, will perform with Allan Birney conducting.

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The Family Series continues at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown with "The Velveteen Rabbit" on Sunday at 2 p.m. The production combines life-sized puppets, masks and the theatrical magic of Enchantment Theatre with the music of Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award-winning composer/arranger Don Sebesky. The event is suitable for children ages 4-10.

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"Turning the Tables: The Art of Curators & Directors" will be featured for First Friday at 6 p.m., at the Banana Factory in Bethlehem. The exhibit, presented by Santa Bannon/Fine Art, runs through May 31. Those curators and directors participating who bring us some very fine exhibits in and around the Lehigh Valley year after year include: Kathryn Schaar Burke, Muhlenberg College; Diane Fischer, PhD, Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley; Harris Fogel, The University of the Arts; Marilyn Fox, Penn State University Berks; Bruce Katsiff, James A. Michener Art Museum; Ann A. Lalik, Penn State University Lehigh Valley; Jacqueline Lima, Fairleigh Dickinson University; Janice Lipzin, ArtsQuest Banana Factory; Brian H. Peterson, James A. Michener Art Museum; Sarah Stolfa, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center; Thomas Shillea, Northampton Community College; Ricardo Viera, Lehigh University Art Galleries, and William Williams, Haverford College.

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