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Northeast Area Jazz Ensemble To Mark 35th Anniversary With A Concert

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NORFOLK – In the year 1980, the pop group Blondie topped the charts with its hit “Call Me,” as the disco craze was starting to wane.  That same year, a group of area musicians got together to share their passion for jazz. While Blondie still plays occasional gigs, the Norfolk Area Jazz Ensemble (NAJE) has gone non-stop as it continues to play jazz and Big Band music that sounds as fresh today as it did 35-years ago.

To celebrate the milestone, NAJE will hold a 35th anniversary concert on Sunday, May 17, at 2 p.m. in the Cox Activities Center Theater on the Northeast campus in Norfolk.

The late Dr. Jim Boullion, director of instrumental music activities at Northeast Community College, was influential in starting the group. He told the Norfolk Daily News in a 1986 interview that he promoted the idea of the ensemble to provide community members with the opportunity to continue playing jazz music after leaving school.

The group initially started with area music teachers, but then expanded to include musicians from all walks of life, to professional engineers to those who work in the medical field.

Four of the group’s members, Bob Johnson, of Howells, and Brad Krivohlavek, Tom Surber and Randy Neuharth, all of Norfolk, have played and rehearsed weekly over the past thirty-five years.

Neuharth, who also directed the group from 2001 until his retirement as music instructor/director instrumental activities at Northeast Community College in 2014, said the May 17th concert is about celebrating 35-years of music.

“We would like to invite anyone who ever played with the group over the past 35-years, if even you substituted for someone, to join us for the concert and help us celebrate this milestone. We would love to get together with everyone and reminisce. It has been great fun working with somewhere of around 100 different musicians throughout the last 35 years. I hope that many of the former members of the group can attend this concert. It would be great to see them again.”

In addition to playing music across the region over the past 35-years, NAJE has raised over $120,000 for music scholarships and for the purchase of several instruments and pieces of equipment for the Northeast music department.  At one time, the group also provided funding to help offset the expense of an assistant band director at the College, among other department operations.                                 

NAJE also joins Northeast Community College is sponsoring the annual Jazz Festival, which attracts middle, junior and high schools students from several states each March. At this year’s 33rd annual festival, over 2,000 students took part.

The May 17th concert is open to the public, but free will donations will be accepted with proceeds going to the NAJE Scholarship Fund. A reception will follow the concert in the music room in the Cox Activity Center near the theatre.

To learn more about the Northeast Area Jazz Ensemble, go online to the group’s Facebook page at NAJE Big Band.

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The official student newspaper of Northeast Community College.
Northeast Area Jazz Ensemble To Mark 35th Anniversary With A Concert