History

Harry Van Velsor

This festival was started in 1980 by Dr. Harry VanVelsor, a local dermatologist, and consummate jazz lover.  Harry’s devotion to Dixieland and Traditional style jazz greatly influenced the structure of this new event in Wilmington.

Over the years the greatest of Traditional Jazz artists have brought their musical talents here to be a part of this festival.  Names like Art Hodes, Milt Hinton, Kenny Davern, Keter Betts, Bobby Rosengarden, Tony DiNicola, and Johnny Frigo are among the late greats who have passed this way.

In recent years we have hosted an array of talents from around the nation and the world—Dick Hyman, Bucky Pizzarelli, Ed Polcer, Houston Person, Wycliffe Gordon, Duke Heitger and Ken Peplowski, to name just a few.

We have introduced some young newcomers to our area also— Jonathan Russell first played here at age 11, when his performance with renowned guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli (age 81) was a show stopper!

Those internationals who have followed their love of jazz to its’ homeland and to the North Carolina Jazz Festival include  Antti Sarpila (Finland); Nicki Parrott (Australia); Derek Smith (England); Bria Skonberg,  Peter Appleyard, Jim Galloway and Randy Reinhart (Canada).  We have also added Rossano Sportiello ( Italy ),and Anat Cohen ( Israel ) to our international list. As well as Adrian Cunningham (Australia)to the NCJF audiences, and Israeli pianist Ehud Asherie, Anita Thomas(Austrailia) reeds player, singer Maucha Adnet, Daduka da Fonseca(Brazil).

Since 2006, when Dr. VanVelsor retired from active participation in the North Carolina Jazz Festival, its board has been under the leadership of Sandy Evans, former president of the Cape Fear Jazz Society.

The history of the NCJF and its’ musicians is impressive!  We look forward to continuing the tradition of bringing to the area the highest standard of jazz excellence. NCJF is a non-profit organization, staffed solely by volunteers.