by Patric Lewandowski
There are many signs of summer in central Minnesota, from longer days, warm temperatures and the inevitable mosquitos to the various celebrations. But, for 16 Sartell and St. Joseph musicians, the surest sign of summer is coming together as Riverside Jazz.
Riverside Jazz is the brainchild of Peter Olson, a retired band director from Sartell.
“We started about five years ago,” Olson said. “I put together a jazz group to play for the Sartell Arts Festival. I had directed the Sartell Community Band for a year or two a few years prior and knew a few players from that group that might be interested. We have the support of Sartell Community Education, and the Sartell band directors, which makes this group possible since we have always practiced at Sartell Middle School.”
The mission statement of Riverside Jazz is simple: have fun playing music.
“We strive to have fun in our rehearsals and in our concerts,” Olson said. “This is a talented group of musicians and a really nice group of people. Like all musicians, we want our audiences to have a good time and we hope the fun we have playing for them comes through in our performance and the audience also enjoys themselves.”
Riverside Jazz plays a wide variety of jazz, but tends to feature a lot of traditional favorites such as “St. Louis Blues” and “A String of Pearls.” Olson has his favorites, such as a number called “Hay Burner” by Sammy Nestico.
“Any jazz chart by Sammy Nestico seems to work well because they are so well written,” Olson said.
The band consists of a traditional jazz band or big-band setup with 16 members. The musicians come from all walks of life and ages, from retirees to the youngest member in his mid 20s.
“What really sets Riverside Jazz apart,” said Brad Savola, a trumpet player, “is the synergy between the players and the joy we find in not only a performance setting but also at rehearsals.”
This season, Riverside Jazz has played at Lions Park in Sartell to help kick off SummerFest, thanks to Ann Doyscher-Domres of Sartell-St.Stephen Community Education. The band also played at a private surprise anniversary party at Milk and Honey Ciders in St. Joseph. There is also the “friends and family concert” at Olson’s home coming up on July 15.
Beyond that, the band has been invited to play at the Sartell Community Center this August.
Make sure to check out Riverside Jazz’s Facebook page, and if you are interested in the band playing for your event, email Pete Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org.