Welcome to the Yosemite Jazz Band

High energy, enthusiastic style of traditional and Dixieland jazz music for any event that
encourages audiences to stomp their feet, clap their hands, and sing along.

California Mid-State Fair, July 2016
From Left to Right: Pat Mierkey, Jimmy Kirin, Berl Howell, James Mierkey, Jennifer Piccolotti, David Quinday, Teddy Strauss, and Jeff Gurule

Our story...

It all began in October 1993 when the Yosemite Jazz Band established its roots in the mountain community of Oakhurst, California, located just outside of Yosemite National Park. Berl Howell, our band's fearless leader, approached Teddy Strauss and Jim Kirin about forming a traditional jazz band. Other local musicians came on board and it wasn't long before the band was rolling. In the summer of 1994, the newly formed band began performing at the Oakhurst Pizza Factory, which has become an annual tradition. The band quickly gained a loyal following and many gigs ensued.

The Yosemite Jazz Band added more local musicians over the years, including Pat Mierkey, Jeff Gurule, James Mierkey, and Daniel Green. We share a lot of fun performing for our friends.

As you plan your trip to Yosemite National Park and find yourself in the Oakhurst area, please stop by and see us. The band performs every Thursday night at the Pizza Factory from 6:30 PM through 8:30 PM, from May through September. Enjoy a pizza, the warm summer evening, good company, and our traditional jazz sounds.

The band's repertoire includes an entertaining blend of Dixieland jazz, early swing, gospel, and traditional jazz favorites. The Yosemite Jazz Band performs for dances, county and state fairs, jazz festivals, weddings, funerals, memorial services, parties, family reunions, conferences, church events, and grand openings. No matter what your function or event, an entertaining performance by the Yosemite Jazz Band is sure to please.

To contact the band, please email Berl at yosemitejazzband@gmail.com

 

Chops... Thanks for the memories.

We are saddened by the recent loss of our trombonist, Pat Mierkey, who passed away in Oakhurst on August 11, 2020. Pat became a member of the Yosemite Jazz Band's family in 1996 by performing on tuba and later replacing George Izzett on trombone. Many enjoyed Pat's love of singing songs like "St. James Infirmary", but the band often had to limit the number of verses he was allowed to sing. Engraved on his trombone is his musical nickname, "Chops", which we also called his trombone. No doubt whenever we perform "Stars Fell On Alabama", Chops will be heard in our hearts.

Pat was passionate about music. He often told stories of how he played saxophone with a Mariachi band and euphonium, trumpet and tuba with the Arizona 108th Army National Guard Band. Since moving to Oakhurst, he became a dedicated member of the Oakhurst music community and provided inspiration to many student musicians attending the Yosemite High School Music Programs. He was the principle trombonist with the Oakhurst Community Concert Band and served as its Assistant Director. Those of us who are also community band musicians will miss his direction of Sousa marches, his recordings of our performances, and him being Santa Claus at the Winter Concerts.

Chops... thanks for the memories. Our condolences to MaryHelen and James Mierkey, and the Mierkey Family.

 

 

 

Band Calendar

Last Update | August 15, 2020

 

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, all performances have been cancelled until further notice.

 

 

Band Members

Berl Howell - Trumpet and Band Leader

Berl is the energetic leader and founder of the Yosemite Jazz Band. Berl began playing traditional jazz in the California coastal community of Ventura where he performed with the Volunteer Dixieland Fire Brigade and The Untouchables Jazz Band. Soon after relocating to Bass Lake, Berl began performing with the Oakhurst Community Concert Band and formed the Yosemite Jazz Band. Today, Berl resides in Coarsegold where his enrichment of life continues through music, especially through traditional jazz. His extreme soulful playing and good-hearted enthusiasm is inspiring to both the band and the audience.

 

Teddy Strauss - Clarinet/Saxophone

Teddy co-founded the Yosemite Jazz Band with Berl and is perhaps most notable for his raspy singing voice and energetic playing style. Growing up in Southern California, jazz came to Teddy from playing Count Basie tunes in his high school jazz band. He experienced frequent performing opportunities by playing in several bands and wind ensembles at Cerritos, La Palma and Saddleback Colleges, joining the Downey Symphony Orchestra, and performing in a pit band for a musical production of the Sound of Music. The California coastal redwoods eventually drew him to Trinidad, California where he studied forestry at Humboldt State University, quickly learning that playing clarinet with the HSU Symphonic Band would keep him out from the rain. Upon graduation, a "day job" relocated him to Bakersfield where he joined the Bakersfield City Band for warm summer evening performances at the Greek Amphitheater in Beale Park. Teddy ultimately made Coarsegold his home only to meet Berl at an Oakhurst Community Concert Band rehearsal where discussions about forming a traditional jazz band commenced... and the rest is history!

 

Jimmy Kirin - Percussion

The "Drummer-Man" is a Yosemite Jazz Band founding father and charter member. Originally from Joliet, Illinois, Jimmy performed with numerous bands in his youth throughout the Chicago area, including the one in the above photo. Jimmy's love for traditional jazz once lead him to participated in the World's Largest Band at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee for listing in the "Guinness Book of World Records". Jimmy performs with the Oakhurst Community Concert Band where he can be seen in the back row pounding on a variety of percussion instruments. His Chicago-style rhythm is fundamental to the Yosemite Jazz Band's beat.

 

Pat Mierkey - Trombone

"Chops" began professional musical career at the ripe young age of 14 by playing trumpet and saxophone with a polka dance band in central Wisconsin. Pat later relocated to Arizona where in 1965 he became a music teacher after earning his Music Education degree. For 13 years he performed on the euphonium, trumpet and tuba with the Arizona 108th Army National Guard Band. Soon after moving to Oakhurst, he joined the Yosemite Jazz Band in 1996 by playing the tuba, but today performs on his trombone. Pat is an assistant conductor, principle trombonist, and Board member with the Oakhurst Community Concert Band. On his free time, Chops teaches music at Yosemite High School. If you ask, Chops will gladly play his hosaphone for you... but expect objections from the band.

 

Jeff Gurule - Banjo/Guitar

Jeff resides in North Fork, the exact center of California, where he can almost always be heard strummin' or pickin' a banjo. After gaining experience playing experimental finger style solo guitar, Jeff discovered the powerful feeling of playing music with others through drumming. It was just a matter of time before the drums and strings collided and coalesced into a banjo on his knee. Jeff’s enthusiasm for the banjo and music in general knows no bounds, as he's performed in numerous bands playing jazz, bluegrass, Brazilian, and African percussion. Jeff joined the Yosemite Jazz Band in the summer of 2001 to perform traditional jazz tunes on his plectrum banjo and tenor guitar. You may also find Jeff a pickin' and a grinnin' on his five-string banjo with a local bluegrass band, or perhaps while riding on the Sugarpine Railroad. Jeff is an inspired musician who can easily jam all night and greet a sunrise... with a banjo on his knee.

 

James Mierkey - Piano

James joined the Yosemite Jazz Band in 2002 as its piano player, lead vocalist, and official emcee. For those who thrive on trivia, "Chops" is James' father! James began playing music and singing early in his life as a result of his parents' dedication to music. He started out playing drums when he was six years old and soon thereafter began playing the piano. James has an extreme interest in all forms of jazz music, especially traditional jazz. His enthusiam in theater has segued toward directing and producing musicals and performing on stage at the Golden Chain Theater in Oakhurst, where he also serves on their Board of Directors. James has many talents, as he is a music teacher at the local elementary schools and is involved with numerous musical projects by taking on the roles of musician, arranger, musical director, and recording engineer.

 

Daniel Green - String Bass

Originally from Portola Valley, California, Daniel’s earliest performance recollection is playing pizzicato cello (sort of like a string bass, at least proportionately) in a Kindergarten choir PTA Christmas show. Though "The Little Drummer Boy" had ended, little Daniel just kept plucking away - out there in that magical space of joy... totally overwhelmed by the instrument’s beautiful sound. As he developed on the string bass, Daniel thrived as a bass journeyman in the South Bay, Monterey and Carmel regions of California. He provided rhythm section support for competing jazz vocal ensembles at the high school and college level, where one stint with Soquel High Jazz Choir culminated with a performance at the 1990 Monterey Jazz Festival. Academic studies include jazz theory and performance with Randy Masters at UC Santa Cruz, jazz and orchestra with Ray Brown and Don Atkins at Cabrillo College, and private lessons with studio bass-ace Carol Kaye. Daniel has performed with numerous bands in the folk music idiom by playing jazz and big band for city folks, orchestra pieces for highbrow folks, and musicals, worship music, classic rock, blues, Brazilian (Caetana), Celtic (Isle of Light) and a smidgen of bluegrass for all other folks. Today, Daniel resides in Mariposa, California where he serves as principal double bassist with the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra. He originally joined the Yosemite Jazz Band in 2014 only to continue exploring his magical space of joy, sharing his beautiful string bass sounds for all folks to enjoy.

 

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