Martinsburg Jazz Orchestra Factoids

In early 1990, Gary Marvel, then Hedgesville HS band director, formed an 18-piece bigband, then known simply as 'the Gary Marvel Jazz Orchestra' . The ensemble's debut performance was at Martinsburg's Apollo Civic Theater, a black-tie fundraiser to support major rehabilitation efforts.

Also in Summer 1990 - the ensemble played the first of its many evening performances at the Martinsburg War Memorial Park.

Three months later that same year, Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait, and Army Reservist Gary Marvel was mobilized to support Gulf War-1, and again for Gulf War-2. Eventually, Gary had to turn over the baton, but the ensemble endured, later to be renamed the Martinsburg Jazz Orchestra (MJO).

In the ensuing years, MJO continued to support community outreach programs in the region, mostly on a pro bono or minimal stipend basis:

Its 1997 European tour was highlighted by a performance for an international audience at our embassy in Vienna, Austria, celebrating our Independace Day.

In 2004, MJO helped produce a fund-raiser for the Shenandoah Womens Center, earning a standing ovation as the opening act for the Maynard Ferguson concert segment at the Martinsburg High School.

For the past 6 years, MJO has been the featured big band of the "Bluemont Foundation" summer concert series. Each season, MJO presents as many as six public concerts in the Shenandoah region, plus outreach performances at nursing homes and healthcare centers. Bluemont is a non-profit entity, supported by a coalition of local jurisidictions, businesses and civic organizations since 1976.

MJO performs each year at the Sunday afternoon Pen Mar Park summer concert/dance events in Washington County, MD., for the benefit of the musicians union welfare fund. Typically, the park's large pavilion dance floor is packed with dancers, mostly smiling senior citizens, youthfully strutting a variety of steps to MJO sounds.

Earlier this year, MJO performed in support of fund-raisers for Hedgesville High School and Martinsburg High School band programs. Several band members provide pro bono after-school master classes. MJO typically invites promising high school students to sit in with the band at rehearsals, often providing a unique opportunity to participate live concerts at the professional level.

On June 3, MJO kicked-off the War Memorial Park's 2010 Thursday night concerts series.

QUOTE: "Before I attended that 1990 Apollo concert, I had never heard big band music", says Sean Cookus, then a 14-year old, about to enter Martinsburg H.S. Twenty years later, as a Shepherd grad and music teacher in Jefferson County, Sean is a featured member of MJO.

(Journal photo by Ron Agnir of Sean Cookus soloing. )

What makes MJO unique? "Many community-based big bands limit their repertoire to the standard swing charts of the 40s and 50s. MJO pushes the envelop, incorporating more-challenging contemporary works," says Herb Kreinik, a 20-year member.
"Last year we tackled the intricacies and nuances of Buddy Rich's "West Side Story Suite. This summer we'll feature Don Sebesky's high-energy "Take the 'A' Train", Bob Florence's tasteful "Carmelo by the Freeway", and Tom Kubis' exciting update of "Bill Bailey", Herb continued.
"The rewards are two-fold: the great feeling of personal and unit accomplishment, and the enthusiastic reception from audiences that may never have been introduced to such powerful works."

On June 26, 2010, MJO will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a reunion concert of traditional swing and contemporary big band music at the Apollo Civic Theater, the venue of its first performance. We've invited all alumni to participate in this reunion.

Founder Gary Marvel will be joining us for the historic event, traveling from his home in Naples, Italy, as will octogenarian Winchester native - founding member Rusty Mason, musician emeritus, to re-unite with former colleagues, students, and friends.

The Martinsburg Jazz Orchestra is available to entertain at dance parties, private functions, and corporate events. Contact MJO through our web site at or (304)754-4480.