May 28th, 2024

Lyle Rebbeck plans to step down after 34th year of heading up JazzFest

By BRENDAN MILLER on April 26, 2024.

Lyle Rebbeck is pictured on stage during the 2023 Jazz Festival. Rebbeck, who was key to founding the festival, announced he will be stepping down after 34 years as executive and artistic director following this year's event.--SUBMITTED PHOTO COURTESY JOAN KENNEDY

Lyle Rebbeck was raised in a house full of classical music; on Saturdays his father would have their home radio tuned into opera. Rebbeck was raised as a classical saxophone player and would discover his love for jazz music in his early 20s while playing at the University of Saskatchewan.

“I joined the jazz band, the big band at the university,” explains Rebbeck. “It was my first immersion into it and I was pretty hooked right from the beginning with the music.”

Although his father “wasn’t sure about this jazz stuff,” Rebbeck would go on to perform small gigs with other friends from his university and make connections with artists from different communities, including Medicine Hat.

In 1991 Rebbeck had the opportunity to play at the Edmonton Jazz Works festival with his quartet and was inspired to bring the energy of a jazz music festival to Medicine Hat.

The Medicine Hat Jazz Society was founded that same year and ran a series of year-round jazz programming for its first six years.

“We did our inaugural show and we had 200 people that came to it, which said to us that there was definitely an interest in jazz music,” says Rebbeck.

Under Rebbeck’s leadership the Medicine Hat JazzFest grew into a week-long festival featuring some of the most talented artists in the industry.

“It’s a huge honour and a huge privilege,” Rebbeck says of his 34 years with society. “It supports these great artists, I believe so strongly in the power of this music.

“When people come into contact with them (musicians) and to sit there listening, watching these incredibly creative musicians perform, it does something inside of you. It touches you in ways that nothing else can. And it’s infectious.”

Rebbeck has received recognition for his involvement in Jazz. In 2005 he was awarded a provincial Centennial Medal for his contributions to music and performing arts that have benefited the community and province.

As well, in 2021 Rebbeck was awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his role as a teacher and mentor to students who have gone on to pursue careers in music.

Rebbeck will be stepping down from his role as executive and artistic director following the 2024 JazzFest and is proud the grassroots festival has turned into an annual city-wide celebration of music.

“I’ve had this catchphrase I’ve used for many years, you don’t have to be a jazz fan to be a fan of JazzFest,” says Rebbeck. “The festival, yes it’s about jazz and blues music, but it’s a festival too, it’s a celebration, it’s coming together and dancing in the street and tapping your toe on the patio of your favourite pub.”

The board of the Medicine Hat Jazz Society is working on the next steps to replace Rebbeck. JazzFest 2024 runs June 25-30. Full details will be released and tickets will go on sale May 9.

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