Sarnia’s George Delgrosso says he’s a lucky man.
At 85 years old, he’s been able to pursue his passion for education, having served as Lambton College’s first president for a dozen years in the 1960s and ‘70s.
He’s also had equal opportunity to pursue his love of music, particularly jazz.
Born in the U.S., Delgrosso was playing drums by the age of nine and went on his first road trip to play at the resorts in the eastern States at the age of 16.
While on tour, he met a sax player who offered to teach him and later helped him buy his first saxophone at a pawnshop.
“I played professionally for a lot of years and can pretty much play every instrument,” said Delgrosso.
“I was about to sign a recording contract with Atlantic when I became a family man and needed to get off the road.”
He returned to the Buffalo area where he was raised and played in various nightclubs, fronting the band with his sax. Around that time he began to teach music and his two passions merged.
Later, he moved to Sarnia for the opening of Lambton College in 1967.
He taught, he managed and eventually established a private counselling practice. And throughout the years Delgrosso never gave up music.
Fifteen years ago, he got involved in Sarnia’s first Can Am Jazz Jam, an event that sells out every year, brings in big name jazz artists and celebrates local ones.
This year’s Can Am Jazz Jam, directed by Delgrosso, features headliner Jon Seiger and the All Stars from New York.
“They are world class musicians. I can honestly say that,” said Delgrosso. “This band does a Louis Armstrong set you won’t believe. They’re outstanding performers.”
Sharon Beeler from London was a crowd favourite last year and is back.
And Sarnia’s own Femme Fusion will also perform again. Singer Louise Cooke teams up with twin sisters Tamara Ayanoglou and Leah Tzianas. The trio is backed by the All That Jazz Quartet from London and Chatham.
“Jazz music in Sarnia is something I want to keep going,” said Delgrosso. “We do what’s called straight ahead jazz. It’s jazz for the people with all the greats like Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie.
“It’s music from the great American songbook that people love and understand.”
Proceeds from this year’s Can Am Jazz Jam support the Sarnia Foundation, The Women’s Interval Home and the VON.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: 15th Annual Can Am Jazz Jam
WHERE: Best Western Guildwood Inn on Venetian Boulevard in Point Edward
WHEN: Sunday, August 16; 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
TICKETS: $20 (VIP guaranteed seating for 200); $15 general admission. Additional $20 for a light buffet. Available at Sarnia Foundation (519-332-2588) or the VON at 1705 London Rd.