Twenty-three years ago, Concord's then-jazz director Gay Burton put together the first Jazz Cafe in the school cafeteria as a way for the community to experience the school's jazz band in an intimate, nightclub-like setting.
The event was so popular that it's now held in the gym — but this is Concord's gym like you've never seen it before according to Steve Peterson, jazz director.
"It's classy," Peterson said, describing mood lighting, candles on every table, and black fabric draped to cover gym walls. "When you walk in, it feels like you are somewhere very special."
This year's guest artist is Ian Torres, a Chicago jazz professional who has his own band and teaches music at Curie High School.
But Torres got his start in music as a seventh grader at Concord Junior High School.
"Especially now as an educator, I realize how lucky I was to be at a program like Concord," Torres said. "It’s high level. The teachers were very dedicated, the community was very supportive. I owe a lot of my success in music to that experience, because I was lucky enough to live in the boundaries of Concord district."
Two Concord seniors currently in the jazz band, share Torres' appreciation for a Concord music education.
"I've learned more from Mr. P and our other music directors than any other teacher I've ever had," Saris Huneryager said. "It's not just about the music for them, it's about us."
She and fellow senior Cordell Zehr said they love jazz band because they can put their personality into the music.
Zehr said that he and other students want the Jazz Cafe to be "the best possible show we can put on."
It will also be the last show for many in the group, which is made up of mostly seniors. Jazz Cafe is a tradition in the community and it's high-energy way to end the school year, Peterson said.
"People have a lot of joy when they go to Jazz Cafe," he said. "It goes beyond just our little group here."
HOW TO ATTEND:
Tickets are available through the Concord High School Music Department for $15 each. That price includes dinner, beverage, dessert and the show.
Doors open at 6 p.m. Friday, May 23 at the McCuen Gym at Concord High School.
Groups performing include Concord Jazz I and II, Club 406 Jazz Ensemble, Stephen Foster Kids, Penn High School, Truth in Jazz and Concord graduate and Chicago jazz trumpeter Ian Torres.