Paquito D'Rivera joins NJCU Alumni Jazz Big Band in Free Waterfront Performance in Jersey City on September 14

The NJCU Center for the Arts presents the annual NJCU Alumni Jazz Big Band Concert on Friday, September 14 at 6:00 p.m on the J. Owen Grundy Pier, Exchange Place, in Jersey City. Conducted by retired NJCU Professor Richard Lowenthal, this free concert will feature GRAMMY Award-winning guest artist Paquito D'Rivera in a tribute to WBGO Newark, the world's flagship jazz radio station, and the 80th anniversary of the Benny Goodman Orchestra's landmark performance at Carnegie Hall.

Born in Cuba, jazz legend Paquito D'Rivera grew up listening to Benny Goodman recordings – in fact, it was these records that inspired his childhood dream of becoming a jazz musician in New York City. The winner of 14 GRAMMY Awards, D'Rivera has had an extraordinary career that spans jazz, Latin jazz and classical music. He is the recipient of the Living Jazz Legend Award from The Kennedy Center, the National Medal of the Arts from the United States, a Lifetime Achievement Award from Carnegie Hall, and an NEA Jazz Master from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Each September since 2013, the NJCU Alumni Jazz Big Band has brought together the University's professional graduates with high-profile guests for a waterfront concert at Exchange Place. "This concert showcases the quality of our degree programs in jazz, and is a way for us to share this talent with the Jersey City community, " explained President Sue Henderson. "Just as Benny Goodman inspired Paquito D'Rivera, we see NJCU as a source of inspiration and learning for current and future generations of jazz musicians and audiences."

The musical selections on this year's program celebrate two anniversaries that are significant to the evolution of jazz as a quintessential part of American culture. In 1938, 80 years ago, the Benny Goodman Orchestra performed at Carnegie Hall, making a powerful statement with a racially integrated band on stage, and forever moving jazz from the dance floor to the concert hall. Radio station WBGO first aired in 1948 as the voice of the Newark Board of Education, and became a dedicated jazz outlet in 1979, 40 years ago. Since then, WBGO has become a seminal champion for jazz, creating an international platform for high-quality programming that encompasses a variety of styles and eras.

"There are many artists who would be an appropriate choice to salute WBGO, " said Amy Niles, CEO and President of the radio station, "but there isn't anyone better than long-time Hudson Country resident Paquito. He exemplifies the spirit of WBGO with his outgoing joyful personality, his constant desire to improve, his quest to expand the boundaries of his music, and his passion for humanity. We are honored that NJCU has chosen to salute WBGO and our jazz family and has invited Paquito to participate."

The NJCU Alumni Jazz Big Band features accomplished musicians who studied at the school as far back as the 1960s, when Professor Lowenthal started the jazz program. Performing this year will be drummer Rich DeRosa (who also arranged some of the band's charts); sax players Mark Friedman, Noelle Rueschman, Bob Magnusson, Dave Noland, and John DiSanto; trumpeters Freddie Hendrix, Nate Eklund Marcell Bellinger, and Vinnie Cutro; trombonists Rob Edwards, Mike Modero, Danny Hall and Conrad Zulauf; and faculty members Andy Eulau on bass and Alan Farnham on piano. Vocalist and NJCU graduate Vanessa Perea will join the band for several tunes associated with Sarah Vaughn and Benny Goodman.

The sponsors for this free concert include the NJCU Foundation, Hampshire Companies, Claremont Companies, the City of Jersey City, Arch Insurance, Inserra Supermarkets, NJTV, RBC Capital Markets, NJN Insurance Group, Dresdner Robin, the Hudson County Office of Culture and Tourism, Jersey City Office of Cultural Affairs, Del-Sano Contracting, Palisades Medical Center, Ponce Bank, Connell Foley, PRC Group, BCB Community Bank, Hyatt House, Hyatt Regency Jersey City, New Jersey Broadcasters Association, New Jersey Jazz Society, Hot House Jazz Guide, Exchange Place Alliance, and WBGO.

The NJCU Alumni Jazz Big Band Concert with Paquito D'Rivera is free and open to the public, and will take place on the J. Owen Grundy Pier at Exchange Place. Food trucks will be on site and seating is on a first-come, first served basis. In event of rain, the concert will be held in the Harborside Atrium, Harborside 2 and 3 at 34 Exchange Place. The J. Owen Grundy Pier is located near public transportation and there are numerous parking lots in the area. For more information, visit


Paquito D'Rivera defies categorization. The winner of fourteen GRAMMY Awards, he is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer. Born in Havana, Cuba, he performed at age ten with the National Theater Orchestra and, at 17, became a featured soloist with the Cuban National Symphony. A founding member of the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, he directed that group for two years, while at the same time playing both the clarinet and saxophone with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, he was a founding member and co-director of the innovative musical ensemble Irakere, which brought him his first GRAMMY in 1979.

Mr. D'Rivera is the first artist to win Latin GRAMMYs in both Classical and Latin Jazz categories, and his recordings include more than 30 solo albums. D'Rivera's highly acclaimed ensembles - the Chamber Jazz Ensemble, the Paquito D'Rivera Big Band, and the Paquito D'Rivera Quintet - are in great demand worldwide.

While D'Rivera's discography reflects an enthusiasm for Jazz, Bebop and Latin music, his contributions to classical music are impressive. They include solo performances with the London Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic. In addition to his extraordinary performing career, Mr. D'Rivera has rapidly gained a reputation as an accomplished composer. His commissions include compositions for Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Library of Congress, the National Symphony Orchestra and Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Turtle Island String Quartet, Ying String Quartet, the International Double Reed Society, Syracuse University, Montreal's Gerald Danovich Saxophone Quartet, the Grant Park Music Festival, and Opus 21.

D'Rivera is the recipient of the NEA Jazz Masters Award, the National Medal of the Arts, the Living Jazz Legend Award from the Kennedy Center, and has been awarded numerous other honors both nationally and internationally. He has served as artistic director of jazz programming at the New Jersey Chamber Music Society and continues as Artistic Director of the Festival Internacional de Jazz de Punta Del Este in Uruguay and the DC Jazz Festival in Washington, DC.

The NJCU Alumni Jazz Big Band brings together an impressive group of musicians and shares their talents with the Jersey City community. NJCU jazz alumni have credits in Broadway, television, recording industry, and symphony orchestras, and have worked with some of the most legendary artists of all time, including Gerry Mulligan, Ray Charles, Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, Johnny Mathis, Nancy Wilson, Cher, Mel Tormé, and Tony Bennett.

This is the sixth year the NJCU Alumni Jazz Big Band will present a waterfront concert on the J. Owen Grundy Pier. Previous concerts have been 100th Birthday Salute to Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, and Thelonious Monk, with guest artists Jon Faddis and Cyrille Aimée; A Tribute to Lew Soloff of Blood Sweat &Tears with Randy Brecker; A Tribute to Clark Terry with special guest Wynton Marsalis; A Salute to the Other Jersey Boys with John Pizzarelli, Bucky Pizzarelli and Ed Laub; and A Celebration of the Inauguration of President Sue Henderson with trumpeter Jon Faddis.

These annual concerts are conducted by Professor Richard Lowenthal, who retired in June 2017 after 50 years at the University. Mr. Lowenthal founded the Jazz Program at NJCU, then Jersey City State College, in 1969. Under Professor Lowenthal’s leadership and continuing with Professors Ed Joffe, Walt Weiskopf, and Gabriel Alegria, NJCU boasts a strong jazz program on both the graduate and undergraduate levels.


New Jersey City University (NJCU) Center for the Arts is the creative umbrella for the University’s public programs in the performing, visual, film, and literary arts. A cultural hub of metro-north Jersey, NJCU has strong arts departments, led by accomplished faculty, and presents an array of guest artists and speakers in addition to student performances.

ABOUT New Jersey City University (NJCU)

The mission at New Jersey City University (NJCU) is to provide a diverse population with an excellent education. The University is committed to the improvement of the educational, intellectual, cultural, socioeconomic, and physical environment of the surrounding urban region and beyond. Established in 1927 as a training school for teachers, today NJCU is among the most comprehensive universities in the state. Located in Jersey City, NJ, and minutes from New York City, NJCU's fully accredited College of Arts and Sciences, Education, Professional Studies, and School of Business offer 43 undergraduate degree programs and 27 master’s programs and 2 doctoral programs, including emerging and interdisciplinary fields.

NJCU students engage in rigorous applied-learning experiences that include opportunities to study abroad, and cooperative education internships. NJCU operates two additional campus sites—NJCU School of Business at Harborside Plaza 2 in Jersey City’s financial district and NJCU at Brookdale in Wall Township in Monmouth County.

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