Jazz Happening to take over Mesilla Plaza this weekend. Here are the details.
LAS CRUCES – The Mesilla Valley Jazz and Blues Society’s 20th Jazz Happening will take place the first weekend of October this year with performances on the Mesilla Plaza and at the Rio Grande Theatre.
MVJBS is a nonprofit organization that promotes jazz in the community via performances, education, workshops, scholarships and more. They sponsor an annual Jazz Happening where artists from the area and internationally will travel to Las Cruces for performances throughout the community.
Various jazz groups will perform both Oct. 1 and 2 starting at noon each day and going until about 4:30 p.m. on the historic Mesilla Plaza. These performances are free and open to the public.
The Festival Concert is planned for 8 .m. Saturday, Oct. 1. Doors open at 7 p.m. and admission is $15. Frank “Pancho” Romero and the Border Jazz Orchestra will perform with special guest, Hillary Smith. Smith is an Albuquerque singer known for her R&B and blues sets.
Weekend groups are made up of musicians from the Las Cruces and El Paso areas, including students, teachers, community leaders and many others. Other groups will feature guest performers traveling from outside the area.
Blues, Latin jazz, big band swing, funk and other styles of contemporary jazz music will grace the plaza and stage during the event. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and umbrellas. All performances are family friendly.
The full schedule includes:
- Noon – Lush Life
- 1:30 p.m. – Colin McCallister Latin Jazz Project
- 3 p.m. – Mesilla Valley Swing Band
- 8 p.m. – Festival Concert Border Jazz Orchestra with Hillary Smith (at Rio Grande Theatre)
- Noon – Mack Goldsbury & Dwane Durrett Quartet
- 1:30 p.m. – Ricky Malachi Trio
- 3 p.m. – Roman Chip and the Border Jazz Quartet
- 4:30 p.m. – Jazz Unlimited Big Band
Romero, a retired trumpet professor at New Mexico State University, said MVJBS has about 150 members. It was formed in 2002, which is when he joined. He is currently serving as the president of the nonprofit.
Outside of the annual Jazz Happening, the society sponsors Jazz Jam Sessions for middle, high school and college students. Musicians set up at Mom’s Coffee on University Avenue to allow students to practice improvisation, with the guidance of local professionals.
MVJBS also sponsors students interested in jazz with scholarships to further their education. Eight students were awarded the MVJBS Bob Burns Scholarship during the summer of 2022, totaling $4,750. Proceeds from Saturday evening's Rio Grande Theatre performance will go toward this scholarship fund, though donations are also accepted. Other sponsored events throughout the year also benefit future students.
Romero said MVJBS plans to partner with NMSU next summer to host a jazz camp for middle and high school students. More information will be available at a later date.
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