GULF JAZZ SOCIETY
Founded in 1997, the Gulf Jazz Society (GJS) serves as an advocate of jazz music in the Panama City, Panhandle region of Florida. As part of its annual program, the GJS awards scholarships and introduces jazz to local schools. Recently the Society awarded three $500 scholarships and granted Bay County Public Schools a curriculum guide entitled “Jazz For Young People“ as well as instructional materials for the use of classroom teachers.
In February of 2001 The Society presented its first independently produced “Emerald Coast Jazz Fest / Brunch” at the Edgewater Resort. The same year the GJS inaugurated its series of “Open Monthly Jam Sessions” at a downtown restaurant, and started its series of quarterly “Jazz Gumbos”. The Gumbo’s are a live music event paying tribute to legendary jazz musicians, such as Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Lionel Hampton, Buddy DeFranco, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and others.The Society’s St. Andrews festival series began in April of 2002 with ”Joy Spring––A Jazz Jubilee” in celebration of National Jazz Appreciation Month. A highlight of the mini-festival was the presentation of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” to legendary clarinetist Buddy DeFranco who accepted the award in person with stirring words about the importance of jazz to our cultural experience.
Subsequent free Jazz-By-the-Bay festivals have been presented each fall through 2007. The festivals have featured jazz musicians of national reputation, such as Ira Sullivan, Bob Dorough, Warren Vache, J. B. Scott and the University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble, Duke Heigter, John Eric Kelso, Eddie Higgins, Steve Gilmore, Giacomo Gates, Hod O’Brian and Stephanie Nakasian.