Nebraska Jazz Orchestra to kick off Jazz in June

Pictured (clockwise from top) is the Sheldon Museum of Art; Nebraska Jazz Orchestra; Greg Abate; Gerald Dunn; Susie Thorne; and Joseph Vincelli.
Pictured (clockwise from top) is the Sheldon Museum of Art; Nebraska Jazz Orchestra; Greg Abate; Gerald Dunn; Susie Thorne; and Joseph Vincelli.

Celebrating its 20th season, the Jazz in June concert series presents four Tuesday evenings of great jazz on City Campus June 7-28.

Organized by the Sheldon Museum of Art and many other sponsors, this year's free jazz series kicks off June 7 with the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra with guest Greg Abate. The concerts begin at 7 p.m. and will draw thousands of revelers to sit under the trees on the plaza west of the Sheldon.

Concertgoers are encouraged to bring blankets or lawn chairs for a relaxing and enjoyable evening surrounded by jazz, outdoor sculpture and sweet summer skies.

Jazz in June concerts are free of charge to concertgoers, but they are not free from expense. This year, Jazz in June will rely on donations from audience members in order to make ends meet. Concertgoers are asked to make a donation of $10 per family, or whatever they can afford, to continue the series.

Activities abound before each concert. Kids are encouraged to take part in the weekly Super Sleuth hunts inside the museum, which begin each week at 6 p.m. New this year, kids can meet Josh the Otter by the fountains in the Sheldon Museum of Art Sculpture garden. Sponsored by Sheldon and the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation, Josh the Otter helps teach kids about the importance of water safety. A short program will begin in Sheldon's Abbott Auditorium at 6 p.m. and then Josh and the kids will go outside. The Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation will also be doing weekly giveaways at the concerts, including coloring books, stickers and stuffed Josh the Otter toys.

The warm June weather offers the perfect backdrop to tour sites in the UNL Botanical Gardens and Arboretum. UNL's Landscape Services and Facilities Management and Planning departments run the annual tours beginning at 6 p.m. at Sheldon's east entrance.

In conjunction with the performances, the Jazz in June Market offers dinner or shopping. Dinner items, fresh produce, baked goods, ice cream from the UNL Dairy Store and many more delights are available for purchase. The Market opens at 5 p.m. on 12th and R streets and is organized by the Downtown Lincoln Association, the City of Lincoln, and UNL. For more information, visit

The jazz lineup for the series this year:

June 7 - The Nebraska Jazz Orchestra with guest Greg Abate. The NJO was founded in 1975 and is one of the Midwest's premier big bands. The ensemble's concerts feature a variety of traditional big band compositions by jazz masters such as Woody Herman, Duke Ellington and Count Basie, reflecting the rich legacies of the Mississippi Basin territory bands. The ensemble also adds to this legacy by performing new compositions and arrangements regularly.

NJO has produced seven volumes of recordings featuring more than 60 original compositions and arrangements written by the ensemble's members, alumni and friends. NJO regularly features locally and nationally renowned jazz artists. Clark Terry, Karrin Allyson, Marvin Stamm, Freddie Hubbard, Laurie Frink, Marilyn Maye, Kahil El'Zabar, Victor Lewis, Jay McShann, Dave Brown, Bill Watrous, Don Menza, John LaBarbera, Claude "Fiddler" Williams, Benny Powell, Dave Stryker and Bobby Watson are among the many fine jazz artists the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra has hosted for Nebraska audiences. For more information, go to

Abate, a saxophonist, flutist and composer who spends 150 days a year touring the globe, is special guest for the performance. In the mid '70s, after finishing a four-year program at Berklee College Of Music, Abate played lead alto for the Ray Charles Orchestra for two years. In 1978, he formed his group, Channel One, a favorite in the New England area, and from there had the opportunity to play tenor sax with the revived Artie Shaw Orchestra under leadership of Dick Johnson from 1986 to 1987. Following this experience, Abate ventured out as post-hard bop soloist playing jazz festivals, jazz societies and jazz clubs throughout the United States, Canada and abroad, including most of Europe, the United Kingdom, Moscow and the Republic of Georgia.

June 14 - Gerald Dunn and The Jazz Disciples. Dunn, the entertainment director for Kansas City's American Jazz Museum, has earned and maintained a spot as one of the city's premiere saxophonists. He has toured and played with the world-renowned Illinois Jacquet's Big Band based in New York. Kansas City artists like Oleta Adams, Kevin Mahogany, Bobby Watson and Karrin Allyson are among those who have also given Dunn performance opportunities.

According to Joe Klopus of the Kansas City Star, "The Disciples are four of Kansas City's best players: Gerald Dunn on alto and tenor saxophones, a passionate player who's also music coordinator for the American Jazz Museum, in addition to his disc jockey work and musical performances; pianist Everett Freeman, a player of wide experience who makes his solos into soulful adventures; Tyrone Clark, a bassist of tremendous skill and taste who gives the music a solid, melodious footing and excels as a soloist; and drummer Mike Warren, who brings a volcanic energy to everything the band does."

For more information, go to

June 21 - Susie Thorne. Born in Hastings, the daughter of a classically trained vocalist mother and a professional trumpet player father (who was an occasional sideman for such greats as Lionel Hampton and Gerry Mulligan), Thorne was raised with a great love of music.

Thorne's late father owned and operated a jazz club in Omaha after his retirement. The club featured a popular Friday night jazz-jam that was recently featured on a PBS special, "Next Exit," for its long-running jam, which is still occurring today. There, Thorne was able to sit in as a young girl and try her hand at the standards. After graduating from high school, Thorne traveled the United States as lead vocalist in a rhythm and blues band. Wanting to broaden her horizons, Thorne also traveled overseas where she entertained fans as a solo piano/vocalist on tour through Europe and Asia.

After returning to the states, Thorne re-connected with her jazz roots while studying piano performance at the University of Colorado at Denver. She was re-introduced to vocal jazz and inspired by such legendary artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson and Carmen McRae and went on to study vocal performance at the Academy of Vocal Arts. Thorne was invited back on tour and went on to perform in Japan and Hong Kong. There she continued her jazz studies with American jazz artists on tour. Visiting her family in the U.S., she met her husband and settled in Omaha. She continues her musical studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she studied classical voice with Wendy Eaton and has performed as a vocalist with the UNO jazz band. She has also studied vocal jazz techniques privately with Jennifer Shelton-Barnes and jazz-piano with Christine Hitt. Her first CD, "Love for Sale," was released in 2000 and greeted with critical acclaim, winning her comparisons to the vocal stylings of the legendary performers such as a young Eartha Kitt.

June 28 - Joseph Vincelli. Saxophonist Vincelli, a New Jersey native, has toured and recorded with the likes of Buddy Miles, Ice Cube, Bobby Goldsboro, Jerry Vale and Burt Reynolds. Vincelli lives in Dallas, where he's recorded 10 albums over a seven-year period and recently finished a 15-year project, a three-volume book series, "My Friend, Music." He also teaches master classes on the music industry.

Vincelli has toured extensively throughout North America and with visits to Brazil, Venezuela, England, Italy and South Africa. His first love at 5 years of age was a fascination for food. He continues to use cooking and eating fine cuisine as a source of creativity, and cooks on stage. More recently, he has developed benefit concerts and contests that bring celebrities and top chefs together in order to raise money for young performing artists, including the Kids Who Care Performing Artists Foundation, in Fort Worth, Texas. For more information, visit

- Sarah Baker-Hansen, Sheldon Museum of Art

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