Opera house opens stage to locals and legends this Saturday

Music enthusiasts won’t want to miss the show coming to the Vergennes Opera House this Saturday. Why? Well, first, audiences will get to enjoy music by the local funky jazz quartet “The Good Parts.” Then “Bear Tread” will take the stage, featuring Dave Hebert, formerly of the “Jerry Garcia Band” (until 2016), on guitar and vocals; and Greg Koerner, formerly of the “Dark Star Orchestra,” on bass. If you need one more reason, legendary drummer Kenwood Dennard will join Herbert and Koerner on stage this Saturday.
Not sure who Dennard is? That’s OK, don’t be embarrassed. He is a drummer, recording artist and educator. Dennard graduated Magna Cum Laude from the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1976, and returned in 1996 to teach private percussion lessons, ensembles and labs at his alma mater.
Dennard has toured the world with such greats as George Clinton, Chick Corea, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Jaco Pastorius, Whitney Houston and Joe Zawinul; and led the “Meta-Funk All-Stars,” “The Real Thing” and “Quintessence.” He has played on many recordings include Sting’s “Nothing Like the Sun,” Vanessa Williams’s “The Sweetest Days,” and “Live at Montreux” with Miles Davis and Quincy Jones.
Impressed? You should be. This guy is legit.
“Kenwood is an incredibly precise, funky jazz player who’s improvisation has inspired many musicians of our times,” said Chris Wyckoff, keyboardist for “The Good Parts” and a longtime English teacher at Vergennes Union High School.
Wyckoff and Ian Huzeinga, owner of Hired Hand Brewery and Bar Antidote in Vergennes, are co-hosting Saturday’s event. “We’re just two locals putting on a good show,” Wyckoff said.
Yeah, two locals with some seriously good connections to the music community.
It all started for Wyckoff at age 13.
“My dad brought me to the New Orleans jazz fest in 1983,” Wyckoff remembered. “We saw Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King and Dr. John. They were all playing together on a riverboat. That’s when I fell in love with music.”
Wyckoff attended Tulane University in New Orleans and graduated with a degree in theater and psychology.
“The musicians down there are the best in the world,” he said, “but it’s hard to get a record deal.”
So Wyckoff left for New York City, where he met Greg Koerner in 1994; they both played in the group “Uncle Buzz.”
“We became great friends especially after he jumped into the Hudson River to rescue my keyboard that fell in after a gig we played on the Frying Pan, which is a boat right next to the U.S.S. Intrepid,” Wyckoff said — long story…
Koerner, who is now a lawyer and musician in New York City, is the one with all the connections, said Wyckoff. “He knows a ton of musicians,” including Dennard.
“I originally met Kenwood when he performed with ‘Gent Treadly’ as a special guest on the Jubilee Cruise, which is a benefit put on by musicians-aid.com to help music programs in the NYC area,” Koerner said, guessing that was maybe seven years ago. “Since then we have performed together with many of the greats, new and old, including Charles Neville, Tim Palmieri, Willie Waldman… the list goes on.”
This Saturday will mark another moment to play together with Dennard.
“The event is a terrific collaboration between Chris Wyckoff and Ian Huzeinga,” said Gerianne Smart, president of the Vergennes Opera House. “Ian has been producing shows in the Vergennes Opera House for a couple of months now. It is a perfect set up where he gets to sell his brews to the public, and produce some terrific music events, which he loves to do.”
Wyckoff has also presented a few great events on the Vergennes Opera House stage. In 2011 he brought Henry ButlerandCharles Neville of the Neville brothers; and in 2015 he brought Charles Neville back. This Saturday will be his third time hosting a show.
This show does not directly benefit the Opera House, but nonetheless Smart is happy to have the extra traffic and support the effort.
“For the Friends of the Vergennes Opera House, it gives us more activity in the historic theater and more evenings when the lights are on and people are inside enjoying the space and enjoying the little city of Vergennes,” Smart said. “Ultimately, our purpose is to connect the dots between the arts, community spaces and economic vitality and this collaboration fits that to a T.”
Tickets for Saturday’s show are going fast and can be bought in advance for $20 at Hired Hand, Bar Antidote or Sheer Cuts in Vergennes. Any tickets left will be sold at the door for $25. Doors open at 7 p.m. Music starts at 7:30 p.m. For more info contact the theater at (802) 877-6737 or visit vergennesoperahouse.org.

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