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2023 High Country Jazz Festival Takes the Stage from June 9 – 11 Additional Performers, Free Events, & Sponsors… Full Schedule Set!

BOONE, NC – The great George Gershwin famously remarked, “Life is a lot like Jazz… it’s best when you improvise.” That statement will be proven true yet again when the 2023 High Country Jazz Festival takes the stage with 14 separate events in ten different locations throughout Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina, from June 9 through 11, 2023. Tickets are now on sale via the festival website: www.highcountryjazzfestival.org

With the final performance line-up and event schedule now confirmed, festival organizers have released the complete line-up of activities for the three day celebration of the art form of Jazz. A unique partnership between the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country (ATHC), Boone Sunrise Rotary, and the Jazz Studies Program at Appalachian State University, the 2023 festival is presented by Mast General Store with additional support from Explore Boone and Hampton Inn & Suites, Boone.

“More than half the Jazz Festival events are free of charge to the general public,” said App Theatre’s Keith Martin, who is co-chairing of the festival along with jazz musician Todd Wright. “This fact is due to the enormous generosity of the many sponsors who are making this event accessible and affordable to jazz enthusiasts throughout the High Country… and beyond.” Martin praised the efforts of Jim Street from Boone Sunrise Rotary Club and his team, who led the effort to attract underwriting for the festival with his fellow Rotarians.

On behalf of the festival’s leadership team, Street announced event sponsors the Town of Blowing Rock, Creekside Electronics, and Footsloggers, while acknowledging contributions from Blue Ridge Energy, New River Light & Power Company, and The Beacon. An additional two dozen local firms and individuals have also stepped up with generous donations to support the festival.


Festival media sponsors are the Curtis Media Group, The Mountain Times, Watauga Democrat, 88.5 WFDD, and Yes! Weekly.

Headliners announced previously include The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra and the Emmet Cohen Trio, both performing in the venerable Appalachian Theatre, with the Reggie Buie Group entertaining patrons outdoors under a tent at the Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock.

Additional festival affiliated events will be hosted at the Beacon Butcher Bar & Market, Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, Casa Rustica, Green Park Inn, Horton Hotel, Jones House, Lost Province Brewing Company, and on the sidewalks of downtown Boone next to Town Hall under the historic marquee of the Appalachian Theatre.

Here’s the final line-up on a day-by-day basis for the 2023 High Country Jazz Festival with free events indicated by an asterisk:

Thursday, June 8: Two delicious appetizers are offered as a prelude to the festival, “A Jazz Dinner with Todd Wright and Andy Page*” featuring these two local music legends will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. at Casa Rustica, 1348 Highway 105 South in Boone. Admission is free, but reservations are highly recommended as seating is limited.

At 7 p.m., the six-time Academy Award-winning musical film La La Land will be screened at the Appalachian Theatre on King Street in downtown Boone. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a struggling jazz pianist and Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, are drawn together by their common desire to do what they love. But as success mounts, they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart. General admission is $6.


Friday, June 9: The Blowing Rock Art & History Museum (BRAHM) is hosting a talk by Todd Wright entitled “The Jazz Swing Feel: From Count Basie to Emmet Cohen” at 11 a.m. There is no cost for BRAHM members and admission is $8 for the public. “I plan to link the Basie Orchestra with the Cohen trio through what we call the ‘jazz swing feel,’ the groundwork for which was laid by Louis Armstrong in the 1920s. Basie expanded upon that premise in the mid 30s by getting folks up and dancing to the music of the era. It’s an incredible lineage that continues today through such talented artists as Emmett Cohen performing ‘Live from Emmet’s Place in NYC’ on a weekly basis.” Wright is alluding to the eight lucky guest who gather at Cohen’s fifth-floor walk-up in Harlem while thousands more from around the world tune into livestreams of the event on Facebook and YouTube.

After a Jazz Cocktail Hour featuring Pavel Wlosok*, head of the Jazz program at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on the panoramic rooftop lounge of the Horton Hotel, 611 West King Steet in Boone, the kick-off concert will feature The Will Boyd Quintet* as part of the popular Summer Concerts at the Jones House. Sponsored by the Town of Boone and now in its 30th season of concerts on the lawn, this much-loved series features a wide variety of musical genres that appeals to all types of music fans. This event is free of charge and at least one food truck will be available to concertgoers.

“We are so pleased that our esteemed colleague Mark Freed and the Town of Boone programmed Will for his concert series,” said Wright. “They’re an important regional group hailing from Knoxville/Johnson City area. While Will is an incredible musician specializing on the saxophone, he is also a woodwind ‘doubler’ who is outstanding on the flute and many other instruments.”

The first headliner event takes place on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Appalachian Theatre when The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra®, directed by Scotty Barnhart, with guest vocalist Carmen Bradford, make their App Theatre debut. In the history of jazz music, there is only one bandleader that has the distinction of having his orchestra still performing sold out concerts all over the world, with members personally chosen by him, for over 30 years after his passing. Tickets are $37 and $45.

From 10 p.m. until midnight, jazz enthusiasts and musicians from near and far will gather at Beacon Butcher Bar in Boone for a Late Night Jazz Festival Jam Session*. It will be a chance to enjoy your favorite beverage and tasting menu while listening to emerging talents and seasoned veterans celebrating this beloved art form. The Beacon is located at 125 Graduate Lane in the 1700 block of Highway 105 next to the iconic Water Wheel. This event is free of charge and no advance reservations are necessary.

Wright said, “It’s an impromptu fun time being entertained by musicians who just want to bring their instruments and jam with each other. I’ll provide an anchor rhythm section for those who want to perform, and this event is an open invitation for musicians in the High Country to come sit in and join us. Just as many of the Marsalis musicians arrived unannounced last year, chances are that several of the Basie musicians will show up to participate in the festivities.”

Saturday, June 10: Live music morning, noon, and night is on the schedule on the 2023 High Country Jazz Festival’s busiest day, beginning with student artists in the morning and well- established jazz legends that evening. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Marquee Jazz* showcases students in Todd Wright’s Jazz Studies Program performing popular works free of charge underneath the historic, award-winning art deco façade and marquee at the Appalachian Theatre. This event is free to the public.

“For two hours on Saturday, June 10, the brightest and best of my students,” said Wright, “or at least the early risers, will show up to demonstrate the teachings they have learned under the tutelage at Appalachian. I’m very proud of this group of aspiring professionals.”

From 12 noon to 3 p.m., a High Country Jazz Lunch takes place at Lost Province Brewing Company, located at 130 North Depot Street in Boone, just a short walk from the App Theatre featuring The Ron Brendle Trio with Andy Page*. Ron is a seven-time Creative Loafing magazine Jazz Artist of the Year and recipient of Jazz Composition grants from both the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenburg and the North Carolina Arts Council. While this is no cover charge for this event, reservations are encouraged.

The Emmet Cohen Group takes to the App Theatre stage at 7:30 p.m. Multifaceted American jazz pianist and composer Cohen is one of his generation’s pivotal figures in music and an internationally acclaimed jazz artist who won the 2019 American Pianists Award. He was also a finalist in the 2011 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition and appears regularly with jazz greats Benny Golson, Tootie Heath, and Lea DeLaria. Tickets are $35 and $42.

Sunday, June 11:

The festival heads back to Blowing Rock for a series of festival events on Sunday, beginning with a High Country Jazz Brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the historic 1891 Green Park Inn featuring the Todd Wright All-Stars*. The Grande Dame of fine hotels in the High Country, the Inn is located at 9239 Valley Boulevard on Highway 321 in Blowing Rock. Reservations are highly recommended.

Chetola hosts the final two events, beginning at 4 p.m. Shane Chalke performing during cocktail hour on the patio of the resort, located at 185 Chetola Lake Drive in Blowing Rock. Shane is a regular performer during the summer season in the High Country, dishing up a large serving of straight-ahead jazz. It’s a perfect time to enjoy a snack, a cocktail, or an early meal accompanied by the silky sounds of Shane’s ensemble.

At 5:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, June 11, The Reggie Buie Group, will perform under the tent at Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock. The cocktail hour jazz is free of charge, and general admission tickets to the Buie concert are $25 with support from the Watauga Arts Council and the North Carolina Arts Council.

Then it’s back to the Beacon Butcher Bar in Boone for a Late Night Jazz Festival Jam Session* with music and a tasting menu until midnight (possibly beyond). See the information above for details and directions but know that this will be the place to be post-performance. As with Friday night, this event is free of charge.

A resident of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Reggie Buie began his musical journey at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. From there, he attended Florida A&M and was a member of the famed “Marching 100.” Buie earned both writing and recording credits on the national level while living in Miami. Now, the Reggie Buie Group is a regular on stage in Greensboro, Charlotte, and Raleigh swinging between smooth jazz and standards. His group’s versatility and ability to move effortlessly between soft background music, performing jazz standards, music for dancing, or delivering passionate jazz performances and improvisation are hallmarks of their live concerts.

The goal of the High Country Jazz Festival is “to host exceptional and engaging jazz experiences for local residents and regional audiences with proceeds to support arts, education, and civic programs that enrich our High Country home.”

Leadership team members for the 2023 festival include John Cooper, Mark Freed, Sali Gill- Johnson, Paige Henderson, Brian Irving, David Jackson, Suzanne Livesay, Keith Martin, Sheri Moretz, Denise Ringler, Kathy Scott, Jim Street, Wright Tilley, and Todd Wright.

The 2023 High Country Jazz Festival is offering an “all-event” ticket, which includes admission to all three headliner performances. There are two options: Premier ($110, including taxes and fees, with prime seating for Appalachian Theatre performances) and Regular ($95, including taxes and fees). To purchase tickets, please visit the festival’s official website at www.highcountryjazzfestival.org.


The High Country Jazz Festival is a collaborative program of:

About the Appalachian Theatre

The mission of the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country is to revitalize and sustain this historic community touchstone as a quality home for diverse artists and audiences with a special focus on programs that celebrate our distinctive Appalachian heritage and enhance our capacity to serve as an economic catalyst for Boone and the High Country. Once a gorgeous 999-seat Art Deco movie house, the building closed in 2007 and sat empty and gutted for years. On October 14, 2019, the Appalachian Theatre reopened its doors after a $10 million renovation that brought the distinctive Art Deco details back to this historic theatre and created a new 629-seat, state-of-the-art, acoustically pristine venue for live concerts, films, plays, and dance performances. The historic Appalachian Theatre has entertained regional audiences in the heart of downtown Boone, North Carolina since 1938. www.apptheatre.org

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About Boone Sunrise Rotary

Boone Sunrise Rotary brings together business, professional and civic leaders within our community. Rotary promotes integrity, understanding and goodwill locally, nationally, and worldwide. The proceeds from the festival will further Rotary’s commitment to humanitarian and civic service and will go directly to many of the local nonprofit organizations that serve the High Country. www.boonerotary.org

About the Jazz Studies Program

The Jazz Studies Program at Appalachian State University identifies students with a special interest in jazz, promotes high standards of jazz performance, and expands the circle of students who have meaningful experiences with jazz during their college careers. Program support will help provide student enrichment, off-set performance tour costs, student scholarships, host acclaimed jazz clinicians and the purchase of music and supplies. www.music.appstate.edu