Joyce Lyons

Jazz on the Hill presents Joyce Lyons, Sept 10 Community Concert Hall event supports Russ and Bette Serzen Endowment Fund

DURANGO, Colo. - To help build the endowment fund designed to maintain the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College as the quality performance venue it is today, a special dinner/show - “Jazz on the Hill presents Joyce Lyons” - will be staged (literally on the Concert Hall stage) Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011. Limited tickets, at $100 per person, are available for the event that will benefit the Russ and Bette Serzen Endowment Fund for Concert Hall Operations. Festivities begin at 6 p.m., with a 7:15 p.m. dinner prepared by Norton’s Catering.

Early on in the life of the Community Concert Hall, founding director Gary Penington readily admitted he knew nothing about jazz. Thankfully Russ Serzen did. A gracious man who sported the trim build of the professional baseball player of his youth, Serzen would ease into Penington’s office and, with teenage enthusiasm, offer up names of rising young jazz stars or even established greats he knew would appeal to Durango’s fickle music sensibilities. With Serzen’s help, the Jazz on the Hill series was created, and continues today as a legacy and tribute to the Community Concert Hall patron whose life was taken far too early. Serzen’s wife Bette established the memorial endowment fund following his passing.

“The Concert Hall has presented at least two jazz events every year since it opened in 1997,” said Concert Hall Director Charles Leslie, acknowledging Serzen’s integral role in keeping jazz in the Concert Hall line-up. “I believe we should always have jazz as part of our series as it is a truly American art form.”

Joyce Lyons was one of Russ Serzen’s “favorites.” Her rich alto has been compared to Dianne Reeves and Oleta Adams as she’s said to dig into the lyrics and meaning of a song. Elaine Stritch, Bobby Short and Jonathan Schwartz have all highly praised Lyons’ talent.

According to Tony Award-winning composer Stephen Flaherty, “Joyce Lyons makes each and every song truly her own. Her performances are both timeless and timely. Joyce is a true original.” At the Concert Hall fundraiser, Lyons will perform with local musicians Lawrence Nass (piano), Jonathan Latta (percussion) and Chad MacCluskey (bass).

“I've known Joyce Lyons for more than 30 years,” said local musician Tom MacCluskey. “I've watched her grow from a very bright, talented, witty youngster to a very, very bright, extremely talented, hilariously witty, seasoned songster who will just knock your earmuffs off with her graciously gorgeous, soulfully swinging singing.”

The Sept. 10 event will also feature a live auction for an excursion (for 10) on board the private General Palmer luxury car of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The package includes breakfast, lunch and beverages on board the train, and a gift certificate to the Mahogany Grille for dinner. Live jazz music is also part of the private train ride.

“Our goal is to raise $1 million for the endowment fund in the next few years in order to create regular funding for the Concert Hall day-to-day operations,” said Leslie. “The fund will augment our other fundraising efforts, including ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and individual memberships. With the recent cuts in higher education, fundraising and sales are more important than they ever have been in the history of the Hall.”

Tickets for the Jazz on the Hill fundraising dinner ($100) are available on-line at www.durangoconcerts.com