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Great American Music Series to replace jazz concerts at The Westmoreland

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Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review
Benny Benack Jr. (left) and son, Benny Benack III, belt out familiar jazz tunes at the Westmoreland Jazz Society monthly concert on Dec. 20, 2012, at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg.

Beginning in September, the Westmoreland Jazz Society program at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg will transform into the Great American Music Series.

“Over the past 20 years, The Westmoreland’s Jazz Society has supported performing artists and entertained jazz lovers,” says the museum’s Richard M. Scaife Director/CEO Judith O’Toole. “But, as happens with many things, the jazz society’s membership and attendance are dwindling and new ideas have come along.”

With the new series, four concerts will be scheduled annually to showcase music from jazz to soul, bluegrass to funk. Concerts will move from Thursday to Wednesday evenings so guests also can visit the galleries during the museum’s extended Wednesday evening hours.

Jazz Society concerts took place monthly in the museum, except during the summer, which became “too much for both the audience and the museum,” O’Toole says.

To refocus on a wider variety of American music styles aligns with The Westmoreland’s strategic plan, she says.

“We wanted to provide an avenue for different types of American music: bluegrass, folk, music going back to our early American roots, to mirror our collection and our mission.

“The leadership of the jazz society has decided not to continue the group,” O’Toole says. “We hosted them for free and to go to another venue would incur expenses that attendance would maybe not support.”

Plans are to have a jazz group for the December installment of the new music series, as a tribute to the jazz society.

“It started out slow, when we’d have maybe 16 people at a concert, but it did grow,” says O’Toole of the jazz society. “It was a great run.”

Tickets — $25 for non-members, $20 for museum members and $10 for students — are now available for the first two concerts of the upcoming season: The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers on Sept. 20, and Kevin McManus and the Bone Forum on Dec. 13.

Details: 724-837-1500 or thewestmoreland.org

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter @shirley_trib.

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