The Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra originated as the “Community Jazz Ensemble” in 1990 when Gregg Gelb was a Visiting Artist at Central Carolina Community College. His love of jazz music and the opportunity to share it with others was an exciting venture of the Lee County Parks & Recreation Department. The group began June 11, 1990 and met weekly at the Lee county Arts & Community Center in Sanford, NC. The orchestra’s first public concert was held there October 11, 1990. The merry band of original players included (on saxophone) Sister Blaise Semple, Carolyn Poplin, Bob Bennett, Marty Foster, Bill Fritz, Gregg Gelb, and (on trumpet) Don Pike, Paul Irvine, Sam Tinsley, Tim Mercer, and (on trombone) Frank Burgoyne, Olin Sluss, Don Wazenegger, Jerry Johnson, and (in the rhythm section) Bill Falconer on Piano, Reinette Seaman on bass, John Brookes on Drums, Kenneth Graham on congas, and Marian Carlsen on guitar. Don Nedza was the vocalist.
Weekly rehearsals have been held all over the Triangle area, including the Jordan Hall Artscenter and Glen Air retirement community in Cary, the Senior Center in Pittsboro, Grace’s Little Italy Restaurant in Sanford, and the First Presbyterian Church in Sanford