Jazz at Charles Pointe
Winter heats up in the East Coast’s new jazz crossroads on Winter Jazz Weekend in Bridgeport.
Low lights, a cold martini, simple yet delicious food, and the smooth tunes of a few of the world’s best jazz musicians playing together for the very first time—anywhere. Where are you? Snuggled up in a corner booth at a club in Chicago or New York? A jazz festival in Montreal or San Francisco? Guess again. You’re at one of best-kept secrets for music in the Mountain State—Jazz at Charles Pointe.
Each January, jazz greats like Will Scruggs and C.C. Booker, and George Stern, or Roger Humphries converge on West Virginia to bring not only live music, but also to share their industry knowledge with the state’s most driven, young music students during Winter Jazz Weekend. What started as a casual listening party where folks could share wine and home-cooked meals in a small Weston church hall has transformed into many events across the state—most notably a two-day event devoted to evening, club-style concerts, late night jam sessions, and daytime academic instruction at the Bridgeport Conference Center.
Jazz at Charles Pointe and the Winter Jazz Weekend continue to grow, thanks in part to the West Virginia Jazz Society, an association devoted to fostering culture and music statewide, and the Mountain State’s convenient geography—performers traveling between northern and southern cities are inclined to stop for a gig and fans all around the region have easy access to the music.
When the Bridgeport Conference Center was asked to participate in catering some of those early performances in Lewis County, the potential for something much greater was recognized. Scott Duarte, general manager for Bridgeport Conference Center, says, “We knew right away this event would not just be a concert, but would be a building block for culture in north central West Virginia.”
Indeed the conference center staff goes to great lengths to turn the facility not only into a cozy supper club for concerts, but also multiple classrooms for the Jazz Academy—an intimate real-life classroom where local and non-local musicians come together to individually instruct area high school students on what it means to make a living in the music industry. A team of local music educators and professionals work to recruit students, often recommended by their band directors, and coordinate breakout jam sessions. Deb Workman, a Jazz Academy organizer and volunteer, says, “We have students come from all over the state for this once in a lifetime opportunity, and it’s not just about learning a new song from someone you admire, it’s life advice, business advice—discussing the realities of devoting yourself to your craft and talking about how to pay your bills at the end of the day.” Kayla Massie, a Shady Spring High School student who attended, says, “For the longest time, my parents were so against me going into music as a lifelong career, but ever since the Jazz Academy, the want has grown—a flaming ball of passion has filled me and now music is all I want to pursue. It’s helped me to strive and focus harder on music each and every single day.”
The concert and instruction components come together to create a unique entity for folks who have always lived in the region as well as families and professionals moving into the area. Executive director of the Greater Bridgeport Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Tim Brady, says, “One of my goals is not only to drive tourism, but also enhance the quality of place in and around Bridgeport, and culturally, Jazz at Charles Pointe and Winter Jazz Weekend are something special to do. It’s more than going to dinner or catching a movie—it’s an experience.”
Experience Winter Jazz Weekend’s West Virginia Homecoming featuring performers living in or claiming Appalachian heritage this January 27 to 28 at Bridgeport Conference Center. “Like” Jazz at Charles Pointe on Facebook and sign up for the newsletter at bridgeportconference.com for updates and details.
Jazz at Charlest Pointe & Bridgeport Conference Center, 300 Conference Center Way, Bridgeport, WV 26330; 304.808.3000