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Jazz talents join Boardman students for concert

It always helps to get a second opinion, whether it’s a medical diagnosis or a band lesson.

That’s what Boardman HIgh School Band Director Tom Ruggieri has learned in his years of teaching. Next week, those second opinions will come from Australianist composer and multi-instrumentalist James Morrison and trumpet player and vocalist Willie Murillo, who will play with students at Boardman Performing Arts Center.

“It doesn’t have to be a famous name, but when they say the same thing I tell kids day in, day out, it’s either brand new information for some of them or it cements it — ‘Oh, I guess Mr. Ruggieri was right when he said play it that way’ because they heard it from a different set of lips,” he said. “It brings more credibility to my teaching with them.”

It’s a lesson Ruggieri learned from Tony Leonardi, who led the jazz program at Dana School of Music when Ruggieri was a student. Leonardi regularly brought in jazz greats to play with Dana students.

Ruggieri said Thomas Groth, his predecessor at Boardman, also brought in national artists on occasion to play with students.

Morrison plays trombone, piano, saxophone and double bass, but is best known as a trumpet player. He has performed at jazz festivals around the world and played with such legends at Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Ray Charles, Quincy Jones and B.B. King. He’s performed for Queen Elizabeth II and U.S. presidents, and he composed and performed the opening fanfare for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.

Murillo can be heard on albums by Michael Buble, Bette Midler, Michael Feinstein, Aimee Mann, Josh Groban and the Brian Setzer Orchestra, as well as on many film soundtracks.

Murillo’s appearance with Boardman students has been in the works for nearly a decade. In 2014, Matt Pagac, general manager at Stambaugh Auditorium, invited the Boardman High School Jazz Ensemble to open for Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band at the Youngstown theater.

“Willie Murill was playing trumpet (for Goodwin),” Ruggieri said. “He told me, ‘I’d love to come out and work with your kids.’ Every year we’d speak on the phone but couldn’t ever work anything out.”

Last year, Murillo told him he was going to be touring with Morrison on behalf of Schagerl Instruments and they wanted to do some dates in the Midwest. Murillo gave him a couple of dates, and even though the jazz ensemble normally does its guest artist concert in the spring, Ruggieri moved it up in order to land guest artists of this caliber.

“These are the top guys in the industry,” he said. “They (the students) soak up every moment, every note they play. They love interacting and hobnobbing with them.”

Schragerl Instruments sponsoring the tour helped lower the cost of the event. Ruggieri also secured donations from band supporters — Premier Tour and Travel, Bill and Karen Veri and Bob and Linda Sebo — to be able to price tickets for the 7 p.m. Tuesday concert at $10 for adults, $5 for students and $3 for senior citizens.

The concert will open with Jazz Ensemble 2, joined by Morrison and Murillo, followed by the guest artists playing with a professional trio featuring Jack Ciarniello, piano; Vinny Vivacqua, bass; and Ruggieri, drums.

The show will conclude with Jazz Ensemble 1 playing seven songs with Morrison and Murillo, three from Boardman’s musical library and four arrangements by the guest artists.

“‘Basin Street Blues’ starts with James playing piano and trumpet at the same time,” Ruggieri said. “I think for ‘Mack the Knife,’ Willie is going to sing. He’s quite the vocalist in addition to being a trumpet player. And they’ll speak between songs, engage with the crowd. They’re great showmen.”

If you go …

WHAT: Boardman Jazz Ensembles 1 and 2 with guest artists James Morrison and Willie Murillo

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Boardman Performing Arts Center, 7777 Glenwood Ave., Boardman

HOW MUCH: $10 for adults, $5 for students and $3 for senior citizens and are available online at boardmanband.org.

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