Karel Velebný Summer Jazz Workshop

About Us

The annual Karel Velebný Summer Jazz Workshop will take place in Frýdlant for the thirty first. In 1983, the committee of the Czech Jazz Society decided to organize summer performing courses, Aleš Benda and Karel Velebný were in charge of the project they conceived, brought to life and baptized it as the Summer Jazz Workshop. The seminar threw anchor and made itself at home in Frýdlant thanks to Radek Jech, local flute player and vocalist.

Vibraphonist, saxophonist, pianist, singer, actor, writer, pedagogue, sportsman body and soul (from time to time…), discoverer, and erudite popularizer of works of Jára da Cimrman, Dr. Evžen Hedvábný aka Karel Velebný was at the origins not only of the basic method but before all of the spirit of the one-week performing seminar. The tutors and participants of the Summer Jazz Workshop have always gladly and without objections succumbed to its magic.

At the very beginning, Karel Velebný was assigned as the director of the workshop. Tutors came mostly from the SHQ group – guitarist Tony Viktora, drum player Milan Vitoch, bassist František Uhlíř, and pianist Emil Viklický. This basic setup was complemented by the guitarist Rudolf Dašek, multiinstrumentalist Jiří Stivín, three Brno natives from the Gustav Brom big band named Josef Audes, Mojmír Bártek, and Jaromír Hnilička, the federal character of the event being emphasized by the Bratislava drummer Dodo Šošoka.

During the years, the jazz atmosphere in Frýdlant attracted more and more tutors – e.g. Jaromír Honzák, Günter Kočí, František Kop, Míla Petr, Milan Svoboda, Jaroslav Šindler, Jiří Urbánek, Petr Volný, Cyril Zeleňák etc. Along with our leading performers, their colleagues from abroad made their appearance – the Norwegian saxophonist Harald Gundhus, Danish saxophonist and leader Jens Klüver, Americans Richard Oehrli (vocals), John Serry (piano), Mark Vinci and Scott Robinson (saxes). Thanks to the British Council, a number of British tutors also taught in Frýdlant – Angela Elliot, Dylan Fowler, Lee Goodall, Richard Morgan, Richard Michael, Gina Rae, Julian Nicholas, Martin Speake, Dave Wickens, Tom Bancroft, Phil Bancroft, Sophie Bancroft, Fionna Duncan, Eddie Severn, Trudy Kerr, Karen Lane, Martin Hathaway, Milo Fell etc.

After five successful years of heading the workshop, Karel Velebný left for an eternal jam session. Emil Viklický took over the “headmaster’s office”, followed by Karel Růžička who states that the Frýdlant workshop must take place even if it meant leaving out Christmas. Under his leadership, following tutors will help to realize this year’s edition: Luboš Andršt (guitar), Josef Fečo (bass) Zdeněk Fišer (guitar), Rostislav Fraš (saxes), Miroslav Hloucal (trumpet), Svatobor Macák (saxes), Pavel Razím (drums), Jiří Stivín (flutes), Lubomír Šrámek (keyboards), Zdeněk "Wimpy" Tichota (bassguitar), Přemysl Tomšíček (trombone), Adam Tvrdý (guitar) Boris Urbánek (keyboards) and Martin Zbrožek (violin), Tutors from the USA: Lee Andrew Davison (vocal), Garry Rissmiller (drums), Neil Wetzel (saxes) and Skip Wilkins (vocal).

Until 1989, the Frýdlant Castle venue was inaccessible to participants of the Summer Jazz Workshop. However, today’s castle custodian Dr. Pavlíková proves affable to jazzmen. Thanks to her kindness, a tutors’ dream concert takes place regularly midweek at the Castle court. La crème de la crème of our jazz scene along with foreign guests appear at this event. This year the visitors will have the occasion to admire their musical skills in this beautiful and inspiring setting on Wednesday, August 20.

The last two nights are devoted to displays of finished work. At these concerts participants show their parents, friends and local public whatever they learned during the week. Over three thousand pupils have attended the classes of the Summer Jazz Workshop over the past twenty two years. Some of them have since become renowned professionals (e.g. David Dorůžka, Petr Dvorský, Jan Knop, Stanislav Mácha, Roman Pokorný, Karel Růžička Jr., Ondřej Štveráček, Petr Volný atc.) Others have turned into more or less advanced amateurs and initiated jazz fans.

The thirty first year of the Summer Jazz Workshop, now bearing the name of its founder Karel Velebný is again organized by Aleš Benda abstudio [at] seznam.cz, partnered by the Municipality of Frýdlant, Music School Frýdlant (director Vladimír Hrdina, phone 482 312 312). The 31st Karel Velebný Summer Jazz Workshop organizers wish to acknowledge financial support of the Municipality of Frýdlant.

Short biographies of the US tutors of 31st Karel Velebný Summer Jazz Workshop

Gary Rissmiller

A native of Bethlehem, PA, Gary has been playing drums for more than twenty-five years. He has studied with Joe Morello and performed with jazz greats Phil Woods, Dave Liebman, Eric Kloss, Tom Harrell, Randy Brecker, Don Patterson, Urbie Green, George Young, Bobby Troupe, Janet Lawson, Gary King, and others. He has opened for Lionel Hampton, Cab Calloway, Joe Henderson, and Spyro Gyra. He performs regularly with his own combos, the Skip Wilkins/Jill Allen Quartet, the Nick Driscoll Quartet, and the Alan Gaumer Quintet, among others. His appearances include The Village Gate and Tavern on the Green in New York City; The Deerhead Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA; and Ortlieb's Jazz Haus, Chris's, and The Blue Moon Jazz Club in Philadelphia. He has performed with various combos, including his own, at the Delaware Water Gap Celebration of the Arts since its inception. He has also played at the Central Pennsylvania Mellon Jazz Festival, the Scranton (PA) Jazz Festival, the Wichita (Kansas) Jazz Festival, and Mayfair (Allentown, PA), and as artist-in-residence at Musikfest (Bethlehem, PA). Gary has taught drum privately for around twenty years. He has served as adjudicator at the Wichita Jazz Festival and as instructor at Moravian College's July Jazz Getaway, during which he also performed with the legendary Clark Terry.

Neil Wetzel

Neil Wetzel is Assistant Professor of Music at Moravian College; his duties there include teaching saxophone and directing the jazz studies program. He earned both a Bachelor of Music (Jazz) and Master of Arts in Teaching degrees from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He is currently a doctoral candidate at Teacher's College, Columbia University. As founder and music director of Moravian College¹s summer music camp, July Jazz Getaway, Mr. Wetzel has worked and played with many jazz greats such as Clark Terry, Al Grey, Terrel Stafford, Milt Grayson, Stanley Turrentine, and Bobby Watson. As a performer, he has backed many of the great performers in show business including: Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Bob Hope, Johnny Mathis, Bernadette Peters, Tommy Tune, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, the Temptations and the Four Tops. He has also appeared with the Philly Pops Orchestra including a performance with singer Patti Page in Carnegie Hall, which was recorded and released on CD by DRG records and won the 1999 Grammy for best Pop Traditional Performance. He can also be heard on jazz pianist Eric Mintel's last four CD's: Live, Hopscotch, Dynamo and Four on the Floor.

Skip Wilkins

was born and raised in a musical family in Massachusetts. He became interested in jazz at an early age so he found his way to the stage already in kindergarten. He learned to love singing, but than focused on piano that became his main instrument. As he was coming up in Boston, he worked with drummers Joe Hunt and Bob Moses and with saxophonists Jimmy Mosher and John LaPorta. In Denver, where he established his style, Skip was a well-known figure regionally, and often performed with the marquee players when they visited the area. These included saxophonist Plas Johnson, vocalists Mark Murphy and Darmon Meader, trumpeter Conte Candoli, bassist Milt Hinton, and drummer Peter Erskine.

Relocated to eastern Pennsylvania in 1995, Skip resumed his performing career on the east coast with the Wilkins & Allen Quartet. He continued to perform in concert with all-stars, including saxophonists Dave Liebman, Stanley Turrentine and Bobby Watson, trumpeter Clark Terry and trombonist Al Grey. Of course, right in his backyard Skip periodically performs with Philadelphia legends Mickey Roker, Larry McKenna and John Swana, among many others. In 2005, Skip formed a new working ensemble, Skip Wilkins Quintet. Together they recorded eighteen of his original compositions, for release on two CDs.

Apart from his performing and composing Skip has been teaching at various levels for more than twenty years. He studied jazz composition and arranging with Herb Pomeroy at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and is a former faculty member at Berklee. From 1987-1995 he taught jazz theory and improvisation at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. After moving to the East Coast he taught at Muhlenberg College in Allentown and Moravian College in Bethlehem. A new part-time opportunity at Lafayette College in Easton turned into a permanent full-time position shortly thereafter, and Skip continues there as Assistant Professor of Music. He teaches music theory at all levels, plus courses in jazz history. While teaching at the University of Northern Colorado, Skip began writing arrangements for their award-winning vocal jazz ensembles. College and high school groups around the United States have performed and recorded his arrangements.

31st Summer Jazz Workshop is supported by:
Frýdlant city council.

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