Big Band

Hot month. Hot grill. Hot licks.

It’s no sweat for Watershed Arts Alliance.

The local non-profit arts organization is putting on “BBQ With the Big Band” for the second straight year on Saturday, August 11 at Somerset Community College.

“It went really well last year. Everyone seemed to have such a good time and really enjoyed the type of music that we presented at the event,” said Watershed Director Wynona Padgett. “We promised last year (to bring it back) and hope it will be as good or better a turnout this year.”

Under the direction of Ken Prettyman, the Somerset Big Band is an 18-piece ensemble made up of area musicians dedicated to preserving and performing some of the classic standards of big band jazz music, the legacy left by iconic names like Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Stan Kenton, and Benny Goodman.

“I’ve had a love for it since I was in high school,” Prettyman told the Commonwealth Journal prior to last year’s “BBQ With the Big Band” event. “I played in a college jazz band when I was going to school and have had the opportunity to know some professional jazz players in the Los Angeles and Orange County area. Some are very dear friends. I’ve had an association with jazz bands all my life.”

As Padgett noted, it’s also something different for Somerset that local audiences don’t get to hear often in this day and age.

“Around here, we’re used to hearing a lot of country, bluegrass, and rock, but this is its own genre,” she said. “It normally reaches an older audience, but as we see with one of the young performers (this year), it’s reaching into high schools now.”

That’s Chase Cimala, a 17-year-old at Somerset High School who will be one of the other featured performers on the evening. Cimala’s young age belies his knack for capturing the feel of the old standards.

“We expect him to do songs from Michael Buble, Frank Sinatra, maybe Perry Como,” said Padgett.

John Neikirk is accompanying Cimala, while Debby McDonald will be playing for another solo singer, Renate Dopp, who Padgett said will do a variety of music, probably torch songs and more current songs as well.” Dopp will be performing first, as guests come in and start getting their dinner at 6:30 p.m.

After Cimala, the Westbrook Trio, led by Randy Westbrook, director of the Richmond Area Arts Council, will bring their jazz soul and funk sound to the event, before the Somerset Big Band takes over at 9 p.m.

Padgett said the audience can expect to be treated to a jazz vocal ensemble debuting as part of that set as well, performing with the Somerset Big Band.

Dinner will be catered by downtown eatery Serendipity at the Orange Door, with pulled pork and pulled chicken, accompanied by a harmonious set of sides — cole slaw, baked beans, homemade chips, and of course soft drinks, tea, and water.

“It’s very picnic-ish, very simple, but very, very good,” said Padgett.

The event is August 11 at Somerset Community College, on the campus quad (not Festival Field, like Master Musicians Festival). Gates open at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $35 for an individual, $225 for a table of eight. Those purchasing a table’s worth are welcome to decorate their table for a contest, in any way they choose. Padgett said the winner will receive a special gift basket. Those decorating their table can come early at 5 p.m. to do so.

Title sponsor for the event is Applied Behavioral Advancements. Other sponsors include the City of Somerset, Pulaski County Government, Alan Keck, the Don Franklin Family of Dealerships, and Blackboard Student Services. Somerset Community College is an in-kind sponsor.

Tickets can be purchased by ordering online at, or by calling Padgett at 606-383-0367, where she can reserve tickets for the caller.

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