When you think "jazz," smoky clubs packed with people and smooth tunes probably come to mind. But so should Hobart and William Smith. That is thanks to one alum - the Colleges' very own jazz man, Bob Mastellar '60.
A wild horn and vibes player, Mastellar has been bringing killer licks to campus since 1956 when he started a series of jazz groups on campus as a Hobart student. After graduation, he went on to attend the Simon Graduate School of Business, working most of his life as a business executive who always kept a deep interest in jazz.
Mastellar led many of his own groups throughout South Carolina and Georgia, playing trumpet, valve trombone or vibraphone. He also offered his knowledge of the genre to others by teaching jazz history at the University of South Carolina.
Currently, this player-executive is president and co-owner of The Jazz Corner, a club in Hilton Head known as one of the leading jazz venues in the United States, featuring performances by such noted artists as George Shearing, Bucky Pizzarelli and Terry Gibbs.
But like many great musicians, Mastellar hasn't forgotten his roots. He returns to campus frequently with his horn and pick-up band to give concerts on campus, playing back the music that he first played in Geneva years ago.
Reunion is a regular gig for Mastellar. At Reunion 2008, HWS' jazz man made the Houghton House living room his stage, playing trumpet and singing alongside Geneva's own Steve Venuti '61 on clarinet.
"It's a great honor and a big privilege to be able to perform at Hobart and William Smith," Mastellar said. “Houghton House is an absolutely terrific setting for this kind of event. It's a wonderful environment for classy jazz and a great atmosphere for people to get together and have a good time.”
As Mastellar, Venuti and their band played through their eclectic set, alums checked out the Dove Collection of student art that filled Houghton House and the nearby Goldstein Family Carriage House and Elliott Studio Arts Center.
“Events like these really symbolize to me the old and new coming together,” said Daniel Thorson ’09, a Hobart junior working for Alumni House during the weekend festivities. “It makes you realize how important it is to savor these moments with your friends.”
Mastellar promises to make for many more jazz memories by agreeing to host a jazz festival that he intends to make an annual event and one that will benefit local music programs. This year's jazz fest, held on August 1-3, will benefit St. Peter's Arts Academy, a children's music program in Geneva that is dedicated to teaching the visual and performing arts.
For the event, Mastellar is bringing back many of the best jazz musicians in the northeast, ranging from Syracuse pianist Dave Solazzo, Auburn bassist Bill Kahl, Corning's drummer Joel Carberry, vibraphonist Brian Murphy from Sayre, Pa., and HWS' very own Professor Emeritus Bill Atwell on vibes and bass.
Tickets are $15 for Friday, $25 for Saturday; or $35 for both days. In addition, Sunday brunch&jazz will be $25, by reservation only – call the Office of Summer Operations at (315) 781-3103.