May 27, 2012 - Memorial Day Weekend Salute To Our Veterans


            Thea Hill, singer and co-producer of Sunday’s Memorial Day Weekend Salute to Our Veterans at the Jazz Depot, knows she’s got her work cut out for her.

            “I participated in last year’s show, and it had a tremendous attendance, just about standing room only,” she says. “The turnout was great, it was certainly one of the biggest shows of the year for us.”

            Hoping to replicate that success, Hill is sticking with the kinds of songs featured in last year’s program, and presenting them using a combination of well known and rising performers.

            “Even though it’s a salute to all veterans, it’s going to have that 1940s USO flavor to it, the World War II feeling,” she notes. “Once again, we’re doing numbers that the audience will recognize. This time, we’re debuting some talented newcomers, some of whom have been developed through our Tuesday night jams.”

            Depot Jam sessions begin at 5:30 p.m. every Tuesday at the Jazz Depot and are open to all, with no admission charge. In the short time they’ve been underway, the jams have provided a launching pad for a number of  talented vocalists and musicians who’ve gone on to sing in Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame events like the Memorial Day Salute.

            Vocalists scheduled to perform Sunday include Stephanie Oliver, Sarah Maud, Joe Wilkinson, and Larry Cochran. They’ll join Jazz Depot favorite Jeff Shadley, whose set includes “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Come Fly with Me,” and “The Way You Look Tonight” – representative of the kinds of Great American Songbook numbers that will pepper Sunday’s show.

            Most Jazz Depot patrons are familiar with Shadley, who’s been one of the Jazz Hall of Fame’s top acts for years. And his co-headliners, Hill points out, are also impressive performers. 

            “Stephanie Oliver is a new singer in our Tuesday jams,” she says. “She’s been playing around town with Frank Brown. A beautiful young lady, she’s been interested in jazz for several years. Sarah Maud is only 19 years old, and she has a voice well beyond her years. She sang with Vernon Howard’s TU big band here a few weeks ago, and she was just fabulous.

            “Joe Wilkinson, who is Co-Producer of Sunday’s Salute to Veterans, plays piano and sings, is an honest-to-goodness World War II veteran,” adds Hill. “Mr. Wilkinson played bass in the Eighth Army Headquarters band, and was in the Varsity Club Dance Band in Arkansas. Larry Cochran is an administrator at OSU-Tulsa and a very good vocalist. He was featured in this Spring’s New Faces.”

            And then there’s Hill herself, who brings an impressive set of credentials to the event. She left Tulsa before graduating from high school, getting her diploma while on the road with an all-girl rock ‘n’ roll band called Wax Madonna (whose roster included future country-music star Becky Hobbs).  She ended up pursuing a career in music on both coasts, performing on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Awards and recording in Hollywood. For more than three decades, she worked for Caesars Resorts, performing around the country and opening for the likes of George Burns, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, and Jerry Seinfield. She returned to her hometown five years ago, and began working with the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame last year.

            The band for the evening includes pianist/conductor Steven Schrag, saxophonist Ryan Tedder, veteran trumpeter Mike Bennett, and drummer Nicholas Foster, with Calvin Knowles, who’s back in Tulsa on vacation from his studies at Nashville’s Belmont University, playing bass.  Myron Oliver, another standout from the Tuesday night jam sessions, is also expected to participate.

            The emcee is Viet Nam veteran John Wooley, host of the radio show Swing on This, heard Saturdays at 7 p.m. over Public Radio Tulsa (KWGS, 89.5 FM).

            “All veterans of the Armed Forces are admitted free of charge for our Memorial Day show as a gesture of gratitude for their service to our great nation. It is important for us to let veterans of all ages know that we appreciate their sacrifice and dedication, because of them we are able to have and enjoy so much,” says Jason McIntosh, CEO of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.


Although this is our veterans’ salute, you don’t have to be a veteran to enjoy it, You just have to love good music,” Says Hill.                                                             

            The Memorial Day Salute to Our Veterans is set to begin Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St. Tickets for the event can be purchased at the Depot or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. General admission is $15, reserved table seating $20. Seniors and Jazz Hall members are admitted for $10, and high school and junior high students for $5.

            The concert is the final presentation of the Jazz Hall’s 2012 Spring Concert Series.

            The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.