All That Jazz

For John Anz’s 50th birthday he arranged to fly a West Coast jazz duo to perform at his East Coast party.

Singer Sara Gazarek ( / @saragazarek) and pianist Josh Nelson ( / @nelsonpiano) graciously accepted John’s invitation to perform at the Willits-Hallowell Center at Mount Holyoke College in front of John’s closest friends and family.  John even arranged three other gigs for Sara and Josh in Warwick, NY, Hartford, CT and Northampton, MA so their trek from California to Massachusetts would be a mini tour and more worthwhile.

Blog Sara John Anz and Josh
John Anz is flanked by Sara Gazarek and Josh Nelson at his 50th birthday party.

Although John’s friends may jokingly refer to him as a bit of a jazz stalker, John credits his passion for all that is jazz out of a large respect for their talent.

“While I play piano, I do not play well enough to entertain myself as I would like, and so my passion is to go see and hear what I wish I could do myself.”

“Musicians like Sara and Josh are incredibly talented, hard-working, and are so accessible.  You can go to a jazz gig and after the show meet, mingle, rub elbows and share stories with the person you paid money to listen to and that’s pretty cool.  Even more, in an industry and environment where ‘cool is king’, Josh and Sara, — and a few others — bring warmth both to their music, and to themselves as well.”

John’s late father, and his namesake, was one of those musicians and composers who enjoyed some small measure of acclaim in the forties and fifties composing for the likes of Dean Martin and the Mills Brothers.  Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Peggy Lee were the musicians John and his parents listened to while The Doors, Beatles and Stones were becoming mainstream.

John was just seven years-old when his father passed away, eventually leaving John yearning to learn more about his dad’s impact as a composer and what he musically left behind.

Over the course of two years, John catalogued and recreated all of his father’s work, including love songs he wrote for John’s mom, a former MGM starlet who walked away from an exciting Hollywood career to marry John’s dad.   John arranged for all the work to be copy written and in 2004 produced a CD of thirteen songs titled Piano & Voice.

Blog Johnny Anz
CD Cover of Johnny Anz’s Piano & Voice

“One of my social faults is I want people to like what I like.  Sometimes, trying to get people to like what I like – whether it be Fred Astaire, Jack Nicklaus or jazz –  I can go a little overboard.”

But going overboard on his jazz enthusiasm has its benefits in his professional work.  While Director of Alumni Relations at The Williston Northampton School, John produced a 60th reunion memorial concert for the great trumpeter and educator Herb Pomeroy (Williston class of ’49) and later while on the board of the Northampton Community Music Center organized  A Sunday Kind of Jazz to raise awareness and funds for the center.

Recently, John joined the board of the Gaylord Memorial Library in South Hadley, Massachusetts where he saw the perfect synergy to combine fund-raising and community awareness with music.

“The Gaylord is a historic gem, but not a high traffic library so we have to think of new ways to bring people in and music seemed like a great way.”

Under the guidance and orchestration of John, the Music Monday Café series was born, with four concerts  since September and each concert introducing over thirty new people to the library.  Next season is already being planned, and promises an enhanced schedule of performances.

The last performance for this season is Allen Bonde, a pianist, composer and retired music faculty member at Mount Holyoke College set for April 27th, 6:30 p.m. at the Gaylord Memorial Library in South Hadley, Massachusetts.  Bonde will present an evening of solo piano.

Blog Music Mondays Café Flyer - #4 - red

John’s next musical sites are set on producing a second recording of his father’s music, more live performances, and continuing to expose his two children Bennett and Teagan with piano lessons, school bands and live music as well.

“My wife Brenna and I want to expose our kids to all those things.  As long as they are willing to indulge their parents by going to concerts and having fun listening to great music and meeting wonderful musicians, we will continue to take them.”

John Anz is the Director of the Annual Fund and Alumni Relations at Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA in Becket, MA.  Follow John on Twitter @JohnAnz1.

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