What started as a fundraiser for the Wilde Lake High School Band Boosters has evolved into much more in the past 11 years.
No longer is the annual Jazz at the Lake concert at the Jim Rouse Theatre just one of the boosters' largest fundraisers, it's become an attraction that draws international jazz legends to Columbia.
"This whole event speaks so much to so many different levels," said Lew Dutrow, longtime band director at Wilde Lake. "It's for our school, it's for our community, and it's for what it does for our band program to have these folks come right into our house and play."
Now in its 11th year, the Jazz at the Lake concert on Jan. 24 will welcome back Latin jazz great Paquito D'Rivera. D'Rivera previously performed at the 2009 event.
The show will open with performances from the 19-student Wilde Lake jazz ensemble, followed by a set from D'Rivera and his bandmates before students join D'Rivera on stage for an opportunity to play with the 12-time Grammy-winning saxophonist and clarinetist.
"What I know is, it's going to be fun," D'Rivera said of the upcoming performance. "We put all our heart into everything that we play."
D'Rivera promises performances of music off his most recent CD "Jazz Meets The Classics," a project that mixes classical European compositions with Latin American rhythms.
In his second performance at Wilde Lake, D'Rivera said it's important to keep in touch with young musicians.
"Their minds are very fresh, so they can learn a lot from the spirit that we have, the experience we have," he said.
Two musicians joining D'Rivera at the show are Wilde Lake alumni Alex and Zach Brown.
While a student at Wilde Lake, Alex Brown – a member of D'Rivera's band – said it was a dream come true when jazz musicians he admired would play at the school.
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In recent years, the feeling has shifted as he is now the musician mentoring younger artists.
"It just feels great to be in my hometown and my old school, to see so many people I know and perform with such great artists," said Brown, 27.
His brother, Zach, occasionally plays bass in D'Rivera's band and the legendary jazz musician has nothing but praise for the Columbia natives.
"They're a pleasure to work with; they're both eager to learn on a daily basis," he said.
Alex, who was 18 when he was introduced to D'Rivera by bass player Oscar Stagnaro, said the humble and modest musician has played a large role in his musical development the past nine years.
"At this point, he's like family to me. He's been so encouraging over the years," he said.
The show begins at 7:30 p.m. and advanced purchase of tickets is recommended. Tickets can be purchased online at instantseats.com/events/JimRouseTheatre. For more information on the show, contact WildeLakeJazz@gmail.com or call 410-997-2070.