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 Jeff Gurule, James Mierkey, and Sigal Cossman. 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.

[Unfortunately, the events associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has suspended the Oakhurst Pizza Factory performance until futher notice. We hope conditions improve soon.]

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

 

 

Band Calendar

Last Update | August 4, 2021

No performances are currently scheduled. Please check back.

 

 

 

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-founder of the Yosemite Jazz Band, has been playing clarinet nearly all his entire life. In high school, the sounds of the Count Basie Band caught his ear and promted him to take up the tenor sax just to play jazz. Teddy has performed in musical pit bands, traditional jazz bands, symphony orchestras, clarinet choirs, and community concert bands, including the Oakhurst Community Concert Band. His raspy singing voice and energetic playing style contribute greatly to Yosemite Jazz Band performances.

 

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.

 

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. 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.

 

Sigal Cossman - Bass

Sigal is our most recent band member, joining the Yosemite Jazz Band in 2021. More coming soon.

 

 

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