Join us at the 2017 Big Band Bash

Looking forward to October 2017

The 2016 Amelia Island Jazz Festival was the best ever!!!

A big THANK YOU to all of our sponsors and volunteers for their support and very hard work. Also, big thanks to our 2016 headlining artists Bria Skonberg and Houston Person for adapting to the new festival dates and their incredible performances that drew standing ovations. Not to forget the Trio Caliente, the UNF 2 Jazz Ensemble directed by Dennis Marks, Lisa Kelly, J.B. Scott and all of the AIJF musicians for their hard work and dedication to the Amelia Island Jazz Festival.

Very special thanks to my wife Bonnie Eisele for her support and her vocal artistry. Indeed, all this made my Birthday the best one ever!

Lastly, even though a bit challenging at first, thank you to Hurricane Matthew, not only for sparing the island and only causing minimal damages but because of you we got double exposure and came out a winner.

Love y'all madly
  Les DeMerle,
Artistic Director
Amelia Island Jazz Festival

Big Band Bash Sampler

Les DeMerle on WJXT4

Celebrate the Spirit of Jazz!

Become an Amelia Island Jazz Festival Sponsor!

2016 AIJF

DeMerle Brings World Class Musicians and Art to BIG BAND BASH

Big Band Bash at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation

by Michael Rothschild

“My Big Band features some of the finest Jazz musicians and Jazz Educators in the world”, said Les DeMerle in advance of the Amelia Island Jazz Festival’s sixth annual BIG BAND BASH, “Salute to the Bands”, to be held Sunday, February 12, 2017 from 7:00 – 10:00 PM, in the Amelia Ballroom at the Omni Resorts Amelia Island Plantation. “Our exciting program is geared to get you out on the dance floor and keep you there all night long,” he added. The band will perform classics by Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and many more. The popular Dinner/Dance Benefit Gala will present DeMerle’s Dynamic 17 piece Orchestra, plus vocalist Bonnie Eisele and such accomplished players as saxophonists Bill Prince and Al Waters, trumpeters Tommy Osborne and Steve Strawley, pianist Doug Mathews, bassist Dennis Marks, and DeMerle on drums. “We’ll also be doing a special tribute to my old boss, bandleader Harry James, for whom I worked from 1970 to 1983, and his vocalist Lynn Roberts who passed away last Sunday,” DeMerle said. “Come early for cocktails to meet and greet the musicians from 6:30 PM to 7 PM.”

Big Band Bash at the Omni Amelia Island PlantationEnjoy a sumptuous gourmet dinner to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and take part in an exquisite silent auction organized by AIJF fundraising chairperson Lynne Ruppel that will feature “very beautiful and exciting items to bid on, all donated to the festival from businesses in our community.”

Additionally, in conjunction with the festival’s association with one of its key sponsors, the Park West Gallery, DeMerle announced that world famous artist Alfred Gockel has been named the official 2017 AIJF Jazz Artist, and his work will be on display at the event. A native of Germany, Gockel has been inspired by many of the greats, including Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, and Pablo Picasso. Gockel has become one of the most prolific distributors of modern art lithographs and serigraphs in the world.

The AIFJ’s BIG BAND BASH, is the festival’s primary fundraiser in support of its Scholarship Awards program. “We now have several scholars in colleges all over the country,” said DeMerle, “and our goal is to keep this critical American art form alive in North Florida. To quote Wynton Marsalis: ‘The Amelia Island Jazz Festival is the real deal because it entertains and educates at the highest level. Keep up your great presentations and keep swingin’!”

Tickets for the Big Band Bash are priced at $90 per person, and the proceeds will benefit the Amelia Island Jazz Festival Scholarship Program. Tickets can be purchased online. (more…)

Tickets are also sold at The UPS Store, 1417 Sadler Road, in the Island Walk Shopping Center, 1417 Sadler Road in Fernandina Beach, or at the AIFBY Chamber Of Commerce, Gateway to Amelia, 961687 Gateway Blvd. Suite 101G, Amelia Island, Florida.





Amelia Island Jazz Festival Names 2016 Scholarship Winner

Thomas Milovac

18 year old Thomas Milovac, a gifted bassist from Clermont, FL, will be honored with a college scholarship from the Amelia Island Jazz Festival, it was announced today by AIJF Artistic Director Les DeMerle. A member of the Florida All State Band while attending East Ridge High School, Milovac will accept the festival’s annual award when he performs at the 2016 Amelia Island Jazz Festival, October 2-9, at various venues in Fernandina Beach. He will be introduced at a pre-festival Jazz Party featuring DeMerle’s trio, with vocalist Bonnie Eisele, at Horizon’s restaurant, August 12 and 13. He will also be sitting in with them for the opening sets prior to headliner shows with Houston Person and Bria Skonberg on October 7 and 8, in the Parish Hall at St. Michael’s Academy. Additionally, Milovac’s quintet, along with Jazz Vocalist Lisa Kelly, will host and play the Fri and Saturday night jam sessions at Arte Pizza that will follow the main concerts.

Thomas Milovac and Les DeMerle

2016 AIJF Scholarship Winner, Thomas Milovac and Les DeMerle

“This kid is the real deal,” said DeMerle, “and we are positive that Thomas will do very well in the jazz world that awaits him. I very much look forward to performing with him during the festival.” For his undergraduate university training, Milovac plans on joining the highly regarded music program at the University of North Florida. He also hopes to attain a master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music following his work at UNF.

Proficient on both acoustic and electric basses, Milovac began studying music at age 11 and boasts a wide range of influences. “I’ve listened a lot to Charles Mingus, Ray Brown and Jimmy Blanton,” he said, “but I’m also into more modern bass styles by Christian McBride and Jaco Pastorius.” However his interests go way beyond the jazz greats. “I really enjoy delta blues, classical music, and even some New York punk,” he added, “and I incorporate some of those sounds into my playing.” Presently Milovac leads East Ridge High School’s first ever jazz combo and in the process he has become adept at running a band and writing arrangements. “After school I definitely want to hit the road, do some recording and make my mark as a jazz musician,” he said.

Lebo chosen as 2016 Amelia Island Jazz Festival Artist

2016 AIJF Jazz Pass

by Park West Gallery

David Le Batard, also known as the artist Lebo, will loan his artistic talents to the 13th Annual Amelia Island Jazz Festival as its official artist.

Lebo follows Tim Yanke, who served as the official artist in 2015. Lebo will create art that is featured on posters, shirts, flyers and other materials related to the festival, held at several venues on Amelia Island in Florida from Oct. 2-9.

“Being chosen for the Amelia Island Jazz Festival is a joy for many reasons, not the least of which is how greatly music, and in particular jazz, has affected my approach at art,” Lebo says. “The mix of extreme dedication along with individual expression is a perfect one, and one that I learned from being a fan of jazz.”

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2016 Amelia Island Jazz Festival

Legendary tenor saxophonist Houston Person and hot young trumpeter Bria Skonberg are set to headline the 2016 Amelia Island Jazz Festival, it was announced this week by AIJF Artistic Director Les DeMerle. A highly influential player with dozens of albums to his credit, Person has recorded for a number of labels including Savoy, Mercury, Prestige Muse, and presently High Note Records. His soulful, bluesy, and thick-toned tenor style, in the tradition of the great Gene Ammons, has been particularly notable in his work with various jazz organ trios. A trumpeter/vocalist/composer, Skonberg has rapidly become a top draw in New York City, and according to the Wall Street Journal, “is poised to be one of the most versatile and imposing musicians of her generation.” Both will appear on shows at the St. Michaels Academy Parrish Hall.

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Park West sponsors 5th Annual Big Band Bash

Valentine's Day Big Band Bash

by Park West

Roses and chocolates are lovely gestures, but for something extra sweet for your sweetheart, treat them to a night of dinner, dancing, music and art that benefits a good cause.

Park West Gallery was teaming up with the Amelia Island Jazz Festival to host the Big Band Bash Dinner and Dance. The fundraiser gala took place 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 14, at the Amelia Ballroom in the Omni Amelia Island Plantation in Florida.

The fundraiser is held each year on Valentine’s Day, offering you and your valentine a gourmet dinner and a night of dancing to music performed by the 17-piece Dynamic Les DeMerle orchestra with vocalist Bonnie Eisele, featuring tunes by greats such as Glenn Miller, Count Basie and Duke Ellington.

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Tim Yanke named official artist for the Amelia Island Jazz Festival

Legends Tim Yanke

Originally published by Park West Gallery


Park West Gallery artist Tim Yanke of Birmingham, Michigan has been chosen to be the official artist for the 12th Annual Amelia Island Jazz Festival in Florida.

Yanke has created original artwork he will donate that will be auctioned off to benefit the Amelia Island Jazz Festival Scholarship Program. The funds raised will coincide with the festival’s 4th Annual Big Band Bash gala on February 14 in the Amelia Ballroom at the OMNI Resorts Amelia Island Plantation.

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AIJF Names 2015 Scholarship Winner

Ryan Duncan - 2015 AIJF Scholarship Winner

18 year old Ryan Duncan, a gifted saxophonist from Jacksonville, will be honored with a college scholarship from the Amelia Island Jazz Festival, it was announced today by AIJF Artistic Director Les DeMerle. A four year member of the Florida All State Band while attending Douglas Anderson School Of The Arts, Duncan will accept the festival’s annual award during a special “All That Jazz” concert/show on September 20, 7:00 – 10:00 PM, at the Amelia Community Theatre at which he will also perform with the Dynamic Les DeMerle Band featuring vocalist Bonnie Eisele. For his university training, Duncan plans on joining the highly regarded music program at the University of North Texas.

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DeMerles return and gear up for Big Band Bash Gala Dinner/Dance on Valentine’s Day

AIJF Big Band Bash 2014

Amelia Island Jazz Festival Artistic Director Les DeMerle and his wife, vocalist Bonnie Eisele, return to the Island this week from a three month sojourn cruising Australia and New Zealand. They’re more than warmed up after performing nightly on the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship and thus eager to swing at the 4th annual BIG BAND BASH Benefit Gala, which will take place Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14 at the Omni Resorts Amelia Island Plantation , in the Amelia Ballroom. The popular Dinner/Dance will present The Dynamic Les DeMerle 17 piece Orchestra, featuring Eisele and special guests, in a salute to America’s legendary big bands.

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AIJF Sets Randy Brecker and Tony Monaco as 2014 Headliners

Randy Brecker 2014 AIJF Headliner



Jazz trumpeter and composer Randy Brecker, a multiple Grammy Awards winner, and monster jazz organ player Tony Monaco, are set to headline the 2014 Amelia Island Jazz Festival, it was announced recently by AIJF Artistic Director Les DeMerle. A hugely successful performer who has sold well over a half million albums as a solo artist, Brecker will be performing a tribute to the Brecker Brothers in honor of his late brother Michael, on Saturday, October 18, at the Omni Resorts Amelia Island Plantation. Credited with augmenting the sound of jazz, R&B and rock for more than four decades, Randy Brecker’s trumpet and flugelhorn performances have graced hundreds of albums by a wide range of recording artists from James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and Parliament/Funkadelic to Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan, and Jaco Pastorius.

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