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Monroeville Jazz Festival marks 16th anniversary, first under new management

September 5, 2018
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Vocalist Stacia Abott belts out tunes at the 16th annual jazz festival at Monroeville Community Park on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018.

Chuck and Jeannine Summerville of Monroeville wanted a relaxing weekend of jazz.

What they received was a four-act concert of local and national names with more than 2,000 of their closest friends.

Aug. 18 marked the 16th annual Monroeville Jazz Festival at the municipality’s community park, and the first one not organized by the Summervilles. The couple passed duties on to The Monroeville Foundation for this year’s event.

“They exceeded my expectations,” Chuck Summerville said. “I’m very supportive of what they’ve done.”

The couple started what has become a Monroeville tradition in 2002 following two successful jazz events at St. Bernadette’s Roman Catholic Church. The church had a jazz session in 2000 to raise money for a new pipe organ, and a jazz Mass in 2001.

It takes about a year to complete scheduling and festival planning.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s so worth it,” Jeannine Summerville said. “People would come up to you and say thank you for doing it.”

Chuck Summerville said he retired from festival organization, but not from his job selling software.

Ernest Groover, president of the Monroeville Foundation, said he was happy his organization could pick up where the Summervilles left off.

“I thought it was a good fit for the foundation because it’s a way to give back to the people,” said Groover. “It’s working out really well. We’ve got a good, friendly crowd, which I love. It’s a bigger project than what we originally thought.”

Vocalist Staciawa Abbott performed. Their set included various hits and some Aretha Franklin songs. It was her first time at the jazz fest.

“The vibe is amazing,” Abbott said. “This is more chill to me, very diverse crowd. That’s important to me. Music brings people together. The genre makes a difference.”

Other performers included Funky Fly Project, a quartet of Pittsburgh teens that combined classic jazz with modern funk, alto saxophonist Yoko Suzuki and his trio, and internationally known pianist and composer Emmet Cohen and his trio.

“People relate to jazz,” said Groover. “It’s different than blues, but similar. You probably get a little blues in the jazz. People recognize artistry that the musicians and singers have when they play jazz music. You have to be really talented. There’s a message in the music when you listen to jazz.”

Groover hopes to expand the festival next year with support from more local businesses.

“I’m looking to take it to even bigger and greater heights,” he said. “To do that we need sponsorships ... The more local businesses we can get involved the better.”

More information about the festival and foundation is available at monroeville foundation.org.

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