Manhattan Transfer, Sanborn, and More to headline WCU Jazz Festival

At a time when most of us are beginning to wonder if the weather outside is ever going to give us a taste of spring, some on campus are already preparing for summer activities.

For those of you who enjoy attending live outdoor concerts with fresh grass under your feet and mingling with the festivities around you, then WCU may have the solution to having fun come summertime.

The toe-tapping, body-moving rhythms of jazz music can be found right here in the Smoky Mountains when the new CulloWHEE! ArtsFest is hosted by Western Carolina University. This will be a two-day festival of live music and fine arts, featuring national recording artists the Manhattan Transfer, David Sanborn, Joe Sample, and the Yellowjackets.

Tickets for the festival, scheduled for June 15-16, will go on sale April 30.

The inaugural event is expected to become an annual celebration of performing and fine arts. The CulloWHEE ArtsFest will be held in the E.J. Whitmire Stadium here on WCU’s campus. The first day, June 15, will feature performances by Joe Sample and David Sanborn. The Yellowjackets and the Manhattan Transfer will perform the following day, June 16.

This summer festival is the first activity in WCU’s efforts to help boost the economy of the Western North Carolina region by providing the type of music, theater, dance and fine arts programming that is becoming increasingly popular to tourists.

“We see that cultural tourism is a growing part of our economic base in Western North Carolina,” said WCU Chancellor John Bardo, announcing the new festival.

Organizers of the ArtsFest say they believe they have assembled a line-up of musical talent that should not be missed. Jazz fans from all over may find that WCU offers an event that provides great music as well as a scenic location.

The June 16 evening headliner, the Manhattan Transfer, has been hailed as contemporary music’s premier vocal ensemble. The quartet has collected 10 Grammy Awards and recorded 20 albums that span more than 25 years. They made history in 1981 as the first group to win Grammys in both pop and jazz categories in the same year. At present the group is composed of Tim Hauser, Janis Siegal, Alan Paul, and Cheryl Bentyne. In the 1970s, Alan Paul performed on Broadway in the original production of “Grease,” but soon met up with Hauser, Siegal, and Laurel Masse. With that, the Manhattan Transfer was born. After Masse left in pursuit of a solo career in 1978, the group discovered Cheryl Bentyne, who appeared at an audition to replace Masse.

You could say the rest was history. The group has been writing and performing together for 25 years, and they still delight audiences worldwide. Their most recent album, The Spirit of St. Louis, is an interpretation and musical tribute to songs by one of the greatest musical figures in jazz, Louis Armstrong. For more information about this band, visit this website

Another famous veteran jazz performer, David Sanborn, will headline the June 15th performance. Sanborn holds multiple Grammy Awards for his musical talent, and also has a career that spans more than a quarter century. Having sold 7 million albums worldwide, Sanborn also has one platinum record and six gold albums to his credit. From his early days as a session musician working alongside legends David Bowie and Stevie Wonder, Sanborn has remained among the most respected pop instrumentalists in the business.

Also on June 15, renowned keyboard player and composer Joe Sample will entertain the guests at CulloWHEE! ArtsFest. Sample has been performing for more than four decades, first as a founding member of the ground-breaking fusion ensemble the Crusaders, and, since the late 1960s, as a popular solo contemporary jazz musician. Originally from Houston, Texas, Sample began playing the piano at the age of 5. He has been influenced by a wide variety of musical genres including gospel, soul, bebop, blues, Latin, and classical music. Fans will find many aspects of these influences in his music today.

Taking the stage on June 16 will be the Yellowjackets. They are a Grammy Award-winning ensemble as well and for more than 20 years have flourished as one of America’s most loved and top-selling contemporary jazz groups. JazzTimes named the group best contemporary/electric group in its readers’ 2000 poll. The magazine also praised the band for its “hook-laden nuggets and moments of real invention, smart chord voicings, and friendly rhythmic trickery.”

Also performing during the event will be the U.S. Army Jazz Band and several regional and local jazz performers, including the Brent Edstrom trio and WCU’s Technology Ensemble and Catamount Chamber Singers. Fine art will be on display and for sale. Visitors will also be able to attend the Third Annual Spirit of the Smokies Car Show, presented by the WestCare Health System Foundation. This event will be held June 16 on WCU’s intramural fields.

With all this excitement and the tantalizing addition of smooth, swinging jazz, we should expect the simmering heat of summer to elevate a few more degrees on June 15 and 16.

Advance two-day tickets are $59, with one child under 12 admitted free of charge with each paying adult. Discounts are available to WCU students and for groups of 10 or more. Premium seating and single-day tickets are also available. For more information, call WCU’s Ramsey Regional Activity Center at (828) 227-7677. To purchase tickets from, call (888) 332-5200, or visit