Sara Gazarek: Meet DeMiero Jazz Fest’s new artistic director

Jazz artist plans some new names for 2019-20
By Brian Soergel | Sep 26, 2018
Courtesy of: Sara Gazarek Sara Gazarek is artistic director the DeMiero Jazz Festival in Edmonds.

Vocalist Sara Gazarek has made a nice career for herself as an international, best-selling jazz artist who now leads a jazz vocal ensemble at the University of Southern California.

The 36-year-old’s career as a performer and teacher has now led to a new position, that of artistic director of Edmonds’ DeMiero Jazz Festival, where she succeeds Dee Daniels.

Although she lives in L.A., she grew up in Wallingford and graduated from Roosevelt High School in Seattle, where she discovered jazz with the support of Scott Brown.

As a senior, she competed in the Essentially Ellington competition in New York, where she won the inaugural Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation Vocal Soloist Award.

But it was performing at the long-running festival in Edmonds where Gazarek said her career focus came into view.

“It was a very transformational experience,” she said. “I discovered my own love of jazz through some of those experiences.”

Gazarek will perform once again for the festival this Saturday, Sept. 29, when she shares the stage with another esteemed performer and educator – Jake Bergevin, director of bands and department chairman at Edmonds-Woodway High School, where he teaches three concert bands and three jazz ensembles.

The show is a benefit for the festival. The Ingraham High School jazz choir also will perform.

Gazarek last performed in the area in April, when she was featured with collaborator Josh Nelson at the Edmonds Center for the Arts in a benefit for the Sno-King Community Chorale.

That show would turn out to be the last for Frank DeMiero, the chorale’s conductor who founded the DeMiero Jazz Festival more than 40 years ago.

DeMiero is retired and now lives in Dallas to be closer to family.

It was after Daniels announced that she was stepping down that DeMiero called Gazarek and asked her to be artistic director of the festival, which hosts more than 65 middle school, high school, college and community jazz choirs for a noncompetitive workshop-based event.

There also are headlining acts who share their knowledge with the student musicians.

“It’s always in Frank’s mind for students to see someone in their position who had made a life as a jazz musician,” said Gazarek, now working on her sixth album.

At USC, Gazarek helped develop the JazzReach program, spending two years as a jazz choir director with inner city elementary school children.

“I’m very passionate about noncompetitive jazz festivals for young people. I thought that I would be a good fit for the DeMiero Jazz Fest family. It’s such a joy to take my vision and meld it with the festival’s.”

As artistic director, Gazarek is responsible for bringing performers to the festival. She promises that the 2019-20 season, to be announced soon, will features some world-class performers.

She said she plans to bring in major, up-and-coming and “kick butt” stars of the Northwest. She also plans to be on hand.

“I’ve always loved Edmonds. I’m such a Northwest person.”

Watch Sara Gazarek sing "After You've Gone" in a KNKX live studio performance.




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