By Greg Hince
June 4, 2012. The Blowing Rock Jazz Society will have something to offer fans of all types of jazz when it celebrates 10 years of monthly concerts June 13 with a special performance featuring Lynn Roberts and Bob Alberti, coinciding with the release of “Centerpiece”, a compilation featuring artists who have performed for the Jazz Society over the past decade.
All proceeds from album sales will go to the ASU Jazz Studies Program. The Jazz Society has made contributions to the program annually for the past six years, and has donated more than $15,000, in addition to raising money to send musicians to local schools.
Fans often choose to dance, clap or simply nod their heads as they enjoy the music with their dinner. Fred Germann, founder of the society, believes the shows fulfill a need for live visual, artistic, and cultural expression in the resort destination of Blowing Rock.
“We provide such an eclectic mix of performance levels,” Germann said in the June 2010 edition of High Country Magazine. “We provide great vocalists, great instrumentalists that really give people a taste of all the flavors of jazz,” he said.
Germann founded the society in May 2000, and has put on more than 100 concerts since the first one was held in June of that year. He ran the Hilton Head Jazz Society in Hilton Head, SC before moving to Blowing Rock in the 90’s when his wife Patricia accepted a position at Appalachian State University. The Hilton Head Jazz Society boasted more than 500 members at one time, and featured performances from jazz legends like Charlie Byrd, Tommy Dorsey, The Four Freshmen, Buddy Rich and Count Basie.
Germann grew up in the Buffalo, NY area and was infatuated with jazz from a young age. He began playing drums with local bands and church groups at the age of 12.
However, he pursued his other love, broadcasting, as early as 10 years old when he performed on a local kids’ radio show called “Uncle Bill’s Club.” Germann previously worked at a local High Country radio station, as well as TV and radio stations in upstate New York and Hilton Head.
He continues to play jazz on the side, and has performed up to 211 times in one year before, including one New Year’s Eve when he performed three times in one night.
Supporting a jazz music scene in The High Country was one of Germann’s main goals when he first moved to Blowing Rock and was traveling back and forth from Hilton Head.
“With all due respect to the great heritage of our bluegrass and mountain music and this wonderful environment… I thought it was time to create a centerpiece of the American art form-jazz,” he said.
Germann was encouraged to start the organization with money from his own pocket, by Peggy Rogers, head of the Burnsville Chamber of commerce.
“I figured, okay, so, what do I have to lose, you know, but my money?” he said.
The performance June 13 will be held at the Meadowbrook Inn in Blowing Rock, like every concert the society had held. Reservations are strongly suggested for non-members attending the show, and even for members during the summer months.
Members pay annual dues of $75, and are treated to 11 concerts.
“If you went to New York or San Francisco or Chicago, a member would have to pay $300 to get those 11 concerts,” Germann said.
The Jazz Society features popular recurring performers, like Noel Freidline, performances from area musicians, like Appalachian State University music professors Todd Wright and Andy Page, and improvised jam sessions composed of attendees.
Members include people from across North Carolina and Tennessee and include prominent businessmen, entertainers and politicians.
“The essence of good jazz is live performance in front of a live setting,” Germann said. “Jazz Societies have really done a good job of keeping the art form alive.”