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Yvonne Mendez

My Jazz Story

I love jazz because... It is America's classical music. It encompasses the culture of our country and is the basis for so many other arts forms and musical genres. I have been working as a presenter and producer of jazz events since the 1990's. I was the producer of the UMass Amherst-based Bright Moments Festival and since 2012 I have been working as a staff assistant for the Jazz in July Program. During the 1990's I was honored to produce Max Roach, Billy Taylor, Yusef Lateef and others who performed annually at the Bright Moments Festival. I researched and presented various artists including Hugh Masekela, BB King, Odetta, Tito Puente, Poncho Sanchez, Arturo O'Farrill, Fela Kuti, Turtle Island String Quartet, and more. And that was my introduction to jazz music. I continue my work more recently as the director of the Valley Jazz Network, presenting listening parties, interviews, conversations and concerts, designed to offer jazz patrons access to knowledge on topics of jazz as well as the opportunity to experience jazz and jazz artists in more personal and intimate settings; and as the Festival Coordinator for the Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival (Springfield, Massachusetts), where I focus on Operations and also serve on the Executive Team determining direction and talent selection for the Festival.

My House Concert Story

Every Thursday night in July, Jazz in July hosts a concert with the faculty. This one concert in 2016, Winard Harper and Avery Sharpe were playing in the group and started riffing off each other and together they hit a groove that was phenomenal. I mean time stopped, we were all so captivated by the music that when they played the last note there was total silence in the room. And then all at once, everyone was up on their feet cheering loudly and clapping! It was one of the most memorable jazz experiences I've had.

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