The Dukes Memorial Concert Series begins its 14th season with a lot of new faces and broad range of musical styles.
Jazz guitarist and composer Patrick O’Connell and his group kick off the season this Sunday at First Congregational Church. O’Connell has a long history of performing in Bakersfield and elsewhere, including at the Bakersfield Jazz Festival, Bakersfield Jazz Workshop and, most recently, at World Records, but this Sunday’s concert is his debut with the series. O’Connell said he has prepared a special program for the event.
“The program will be jazz tunes composed by myself,” O’Connell wrote in an email. “In the past few years after much encouragement from my friend (saxophonist) Paul Perez, I have been more actively writing down my various compositions.”
Joining O’Connell for Sunday’s concert are pianist Tony Rinaldi, bassist Glen Fong and drummer Kyle Burnham.
“I put together a hand-selected group because most of the musicians are also composers themselves,” O’Connell wrote. “I felt that they would be able to bring their own creative touches to my music, and they have.”
This year’s Dukes Series also includes a piano and vocal concert with Katie Knudson and Ryan Ramming (Oct. 13), a solo performance by Monty Byrom (Jan. 26), Mariachi Aguilas de Bakersfield (March 15), the Bakersfield High School choirs (April 19) and pianist Gene Lowe (May 3).
The series is produced by a five-member board, including co-founding member Marjorie Bell. Bell said the board carries out the wishes of Fred and Beverly Dukes, who created the fund that pays for the concerts.
“The intention in their trust was to donate a substantial endowment to fund a free live music series in our sanctuary,” Bell wrote in an email.
Bell wrote that the interest earned from the endowment, which was enlarged last year by a donation from Annie and Bob Denison, can only be used to pay for advertising the concerts and for a stipend for the performers. The main endowment is never touched.
“(The Dukes) really cared that many families locally couldn’t afford live music performances for their kids,” Bell wrote.