READING, PA -- The Berks Arts Council's Frank Scott Award is given annually during the VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest to honor the late jazz legend Frank Scott's memory and his contribution to the jazz heritage in Berks County.
Honorees are selected for this award because of their significant contribution to jazz in Berks County, as well as their active involvement in giving back to the community.
This year's award will be presented to Wyomissing musician and music educator Chris Heslop prior to the USAF Satellite Jazz Ensemble, plus opening act Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band, Tuesday, March 23 at 7 p.m. in the Crowne Plaza Reading ballroom.
Heslop has been a tireless supporter of jazz education in Berks County. A graduate of Temple University with a degree in jazz studies with performance concentration, he has taught saxophone, clarinet, flute and more since 1991, and has participated in the Reading Musical Foundation's Jazz in the Schools program for seven years.
He's chaired the educational activities committee for the Berks Jazz Fest for the past five years, working closely with the Berks Arts Council and Berks Jazz Fest general manager John Ernesto to develop clinics, performances and workshops for young Berks County musicians.
He also was instrumental, along with fellow Frank Scott Award recipient Mike Eben, in bringing together the Reading Musical Foundation, Reading Eagle's Voices and Zeswitz Music to create the Berks Jazz Jam, a monthly free program for students which includes use of a free CD/DVD library.
"The most important part of jazz education to me is simply exposing the highest number of students to the most variety of music," Heslop said. "Although my expertise is in jazz, I want encourage the students to explore a variety of music and not just the narrow spectrum offered by pop culture."
While Heslop recognizes the accomplishments he has made, he also realizes his work is far from finished. "When I was first notified that I was the 2010 recipient, my initial reaction was that I don't deserve it," he said. "Then, when I was asked to list the educational activities I have either started or been a part of, I realized that we have a lot of progress in the last five years and felt both a sense of pride and a need to turn it up a notch for the future."
He's already well on his way, with a grant he obtained to start a Berks Summer Jazz Workshop, beginning in June. He and his wife, Jill M. Scheidt, created the Scheidt/Heslop Jazz Fund, a scholarship awarded annually to a student in kindergarten through 12th grade to attend a summer camp focusing primarily on jazz.
For him, receiving the Frank Scott Award brings things full circle. He recently recalled a concert from his high school days at the Sunnybrook Ballroom in Pottstown that left no doubt in his mind that he wanted to be a musician.
"A friend's neighbor invited us to hear his jazz band," Chris said. "I was a budding saxophonist and looked forward to the concert for weeks. Hearing the band, my expectations were exceeded and if I had any doubts that I was going to pursue a career in music, they were quickly laid to rest.
"The band was led by my friend's neighbor, Al Grey, the famous trombonist of Count Basie fame. I was thrilled when, on break, he introduced me to the tenor saxophonist who had me in absolute awe. That saxophonist was Frank Scott."
Frank Scott, for whom the award is dedicated, was born on June 24, 1923, in Reading. Throughout his musical career, Scott played with many notable musicians such as Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, and Bill Haley and the Comets. Scott opened two nightclubs in the Reading area which had a great influence on the community, opening people up to the sound of jazz, and played a vital role in much of Berks County's jazz programming. His album, "Never Too Old to Dream," captured the heart and soul of his generosity which translates through his music.
The 20th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 19-28, and features an expansive array of musical styles featuring contemporary and traditional jazz and blues artists. Over 130 events at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Greater Reading make this a truly unique music festival. For more information, including ticketing, artist bios and archived releases, visit www.berksjazzfest.com. For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts in Greater Reading, visit www.berksarts.org.
To order tickets for Berks Jazz Fest shows:
Visit the Sovereign Center box office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading.
Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 to charge by phone; or visit ticketmaster.com.
Order online at berksjazzfest.com.
For a complete schedule of concerts, visit www.berksjazzfest.com
Dana L. Hoffman
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest
Marketing/Public Relations Director
Berks Arts Council
Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council