High Energy Dixieland & Traditional Jazz

The Yosemite

Jazz Band

About us

30 Year Legacy

It all began in October of 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, the band’s founder, approached several local musicians interested in forming a traditional jazz band. It wasn’t long before the band was rolling along.

Monterey Jazz Bash by the Bay, March 2023
From Left to Right: Bonnie Otto (piano), Les Nunes (trombone), Berl Howell (cornet-fluglehorn), Pete Scaffidi (bass), Jeff Gurule (banjo-guitar), Elva Gurule (trumpet), Jimmy Kirin (percussion), and Teddy Strauss (clarinet).

In May 1994, the newly formed band began performing at the Oakhurst Pizza Factory, which has since become an annual tradition.  The band quickly gained a loyal following and many gigs ensued.  Over the years, five CD’s were recorded:  two studio, “Will Play For Food” (2000) and “Ain’t Got A Lousy Dime” (2005); and three live, “Tell ’em Joe Sent Ya”, “The Next Stage” and “The Music Goes Round and Round” comprising of performances recorded at the 2011, 2014 and 2015 California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles, respectively.  The Yosemite Jazz Band performs for jazz club dances, county and state fairs, jazz festivals, weddings, funerals, memorial services, parties, family reunions, conferences, church events, and grand openings.  

The band is fortunate to have performed with many talented musicians, as most are revealed in our photo gallary below.  As time marches on, Berl Howell announced his retirement and in 2023 handed his leadership role to Jeff Gurule.  Today, the Yosemite Jazz Band’s core members are Jeff Gurule on Banjo and Guitar, Teddy Strauss on Reeds, Elva Gurule on Trumpet, Les Nunes on Trombone, Mark Prather on Trumpet and Flugelhorn, Pete Scaffidi on Bass, Maynard Williams on Piano, and Kevin McHatten on Percussion.  Berl still “sits-in” with the band whenever the occasion calls.  The current line-up is the most exciting and entertaining version of the band yet!

Please check the band’s calendar for upcoming performances.  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 Oakhurst 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.

Upcoming Performances

The Yosemite Jazz Band calendar offers a complete list of upcoming performances.

Local Jazz

The Pizza Factory 2024

Thursday evenings from 6:30pm – 8:30pm

beginning May 2nd through September 27th

View our calendar for actual performance dates

40120 Hwy 41 in Oakhurst | Directions

The Elderberry House 2024

Select sunday evenings from 5:00pm to 8:00pm

beginning June 2nd through August 18th

View our calendar for actual performance dates

48668 Victoria Lane in Oakhurst

More Info | directions

On the Road

Fresno Dixieland Society

Halloween Monster Bash

Sunday October 13

Fresno Elks Lodge 439

5351 N Diana Street in Fresno

More Info | Directions

The Sounds of Mardi Gras 2025

Friday – Sunday February 13 – 16


2233 VENTURA STREET in Fresno

More Info | Directions


Yosemite Jazz Band Members

BERL HOWELL, Band Founder - Trumpet & Flugelhorn

Berl is the founder and original leader of the Yosemite Jazz Band.  He 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.  After relocating to Bass Lake, California, Berl would often attend the monthly Sunday Jazz events hosted by the Fresno Dixieland Society and thought about forming a Traditional Jazz band himself.  After a rehearsal with the Oakhurst Community Concert Band, Berl conversed with several local musicians about creating a Traditional Jazz band for the Oakhurst area and in October 1993, the “Yosemite Dixieland Jazz Band” was formed. 

That first year experienced many local musicians sitting-in, but soon it became apparent that the original core members would be Berl Howell on trumpet, George Izzet on trombone, Maggie Izzet on clarinet, Jim Pollotta on alto saxophone, Teddy Strauss on clarinet and tenor saxophone, Gary Smalz on bass, Jimmy Kirin on drums, and “Banjo George” Smith on banjo and guitar.  Berl booked the band’s first performance at the Oakhurst Pizza Factory in May of 1994, which has turned into an annual Oakhurst tradition.  Many changes have occurred since that original performance, yet Berl’s legacy continues as the Yosemite Jazz Band is still performing to audiences who share the love and enthusiasm of Traditional Jazz.

Today, Berl resides in Coarsegold, California where his enrichment of life continues through music, especially through Traditional Jazz.  Though he retired from the band in 2023, you may notice him on occasion sitting-in to share his extreme soulful playing and good-hearted enthusiasm, which continues to inspire both the band and the audience.

JEFF GURULE, Band Leader and Emcee - Banjo & Guitar

Jeff joined the Yosemite Jazz Band in the summer of 2001 as its plectrum banjo and guitar player.  Since 2023, Jeff took-on the role as the band’s leader and emcee when Berl Howell announced his retirement from the band.

Jeff had little experience playing a four-string banjo when he first joined the band, yet the Yosemite Jazz Band and supportive fans provided an encouraging environment for Jeff to grow as a jazz banjo player.  This nourishing environment combined with Jeff’s passion for music and learning has resulted in his blossoming as a traditional jazz musician.   Jeff’s energetic playing style has been influenced by plectrum banjo greats Don Van Pelta, Brad Roth, Lee Floyd and others.

Jeff often plays his guitar and five-string banjo with several other bands by performing many different genres of music, including bluegrass, pop, rock, blues, and country.  Most notably, Jeff sings and plays his five-string banjo with the Sugar Pine Band with performances two nights a week over the Spring and Summer at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.


“Teddy” is a Yosemite Jazz Band founding member, performing with the band since its beginnings in October of 1993.  He has been playing the clarinet nearly all his life, yet it was the sounds of the Count Basie Orchestra that caught his ear and prompted him to take-up the tenor saxophone in high school just to play Jazz.

Teddy earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Forestry from Humboldt State University with an emphesis in Music.  He has performed in musical production pit bands, Traditional Jazz bands, big bands, symphony orchestras, clarinet choirs, community college and university bands, and community concert bands.  His resume’ include performances with the Bakersfield Municipal Band in Bakersfield, California, and the West Hawai’i County Band in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.  He is 30+ year member of the Oakhurst Community Concert Band.

His raspy singing voice and energetic playing style contribute greatly to the Yosemite Jazz Band performances.


Elva first began performing with the Yosemite Jazz Band as a young child by singing her favorite traditional jazz songs with the band.  In 2018, and to the surprise of her Dad – Jeff Gurule, she took a strong interest in playing the trumpet.  Her passionate playing-style impresses audiences whenever she performs. 

While attending Yosemite High School, Elva actively performed in the high school jazz band, wind ensemble and marching band.  She had also performed in the County Honor Bands, which included the jazz band, orchestra, concert band, and featured soloist.  Elva would also perform in a local rock/pop band with her Dad. 

Elva is currently studying Music and Jazz at Loyola University in New Orleans.  The band is proud to showcase such a promising young talent.

LES NUNES, Trombone

Les began playing trombone with the Yosemite Jazz Band in 2020, where his musical talents contribute greatly to the band.  Les has a deep musical background and is a well-respected musician in California’s Central Valley. 

As a music educator of 35 years, he taught at Clovis High, Clark Intermediate, Roosevelt School of the Arts, Bullard High, and Sunny Hills High Schools. He has served as an adjunct instructor at California State University -Fresno, Fresno Pacific University, Fresno City College, and West Hills College.  

Les is accomplished on trombone, euphonium, guitar, bass and vocals. He has performed as an artist locally and statewide with the After Dinner Mints, The Hal Magnie Big Band, Fire and Rain, Banda Libertade De Valle, Rumba 32, The Jazz Composers Orchestra, The Happy Time Jazz Band, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Frankie Valli, Bobby Vinton, Kaye Starr, Gloria Gaynor, The Who, Gladys Knight, Andy Gibb, Melissa Manchester, The Guy Lombardo Orchchestra, Stars of the Lawrence Welk Show, and many others… including the Yosemite Jazz Band.  He has also performed overseas in Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Germany, South Africa and Swaziland.

Photo of Les Nunes
MARK PRATHER, Trumpet & Flugelhorn

Mark joined the Yosemite Jazz Band in 2023 when Berl Howell retired from the band.  Originally from Texas, Mark attended the University of North Texas where he performed with their jazz bands.  While living in the Dallas area, he performed in numerous Latin and big bands, and with the Dallas Cowboys Statium Band by providing background music for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. 

After a long stint performing on various cruise ships, he relocated to Southern California and began a career as a teacher while maintaining a steady performance schedule with groups in the Inland Empire and Palm Springs.  Today, Mark lives in Coarsegold, California where he plays his trumpet and flugelhorn with several groups in the Fresno and Central Valley area, and with the Yosemite Jazz Band.

Photo of Bonnie Otto

Pete began performing with the Yosemite Jazz Band in 2023.  His musical career began as a teenager performing with his parents – big band lead trumpeter and CBS staff musician Ralph Scaffidi, and jazz guitarist pioneer Mary Osborne. 

He’s played bass for various name bands and artists, including The Les Elgart Big Band, Rock and Roll legend Chuck Berry, and Michael Feinstein to name a few.  Pete has performed with the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra for 11 years, the Tulare County Symphony as a section bassist, and the Bakersfield Symphony for 33 years as the co-principal bassist.

Pete studied privately with Peter Mercurio at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara and with premier bassist and arranger John Clayon in Los Angeles.  He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from California State University, Fresno in 1985.  Since then, he’s been involved in music education throughout Central California.  His experiences range from private lessons to being orchestra director for elementry and high schools, and bass coach at Bakersfield College and California State University, Bakersfield.

Pete is a much-in-demand session musician for performances in Jazz, big band and pop styles, and musical theater.  Among Pete’s credits are performances with Mickey Rooney, Barry McGuire, Harold Land, and the Lawrence Welk Show Alumni and Center Stage Productions of “Beauty And The Beast”, “West Side Story”, “Big River”, “Hello Dolly”, “The Music Man”, “Wizard Of Oz”, and “Godspell”.

Currently, Pete keeps busy… playing with the Diamonds After Dark, Sunnyside Big Band, Sunnyside Dixieland Band, Real Jazz, Shades of Jazz, and the Yosemite Jazz Band.  Pete also performs weekly at the Oak Hills Church in Clovis.

Photo of Bonnie Otto

Maynard joined the Yosemite Jazz Band in 2023.  His energetic playing style, humor and singing are a significant contribution to the band.  He’s performed throughout the country with many different bands, playing a variety of musical genres.  Aside from the piano, Maynard is an accomplished tenor saxophonist.

Photo of Bonnie Otto
KEVIN McHATTEN, Percussion

Kevin has performed with the Yosemite Jazz Band many times over the years, yet in the Summer of 2024 he became the band’s newest member.  Kevin is a professional drummer who has performed with more than sixty bands in multiple countries over the past four decades. Today, he resides in Mariposa, California and plays drum kit and percussion with a number of combos covering a broad range of musical genres, including Bebop Jazz, Dixieland, Americana, Blues, and Folk.

Kevin earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University – Fresno, and a Masters of Arts degree from Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.  In addition to performing, he is an avid photographer and writer, whose plays have been staged at various theaters in California and New York.

yosemite jazz band through the years

Photo Gallery


Have Us Play

Your Next Event

High energy, enthusiastic style of traditional and Dixieland jazz perfect for any event. Our live music is sure to get your guests stomping their feet, clapping their hands and singing along!

Fill out our contact form or email us at booking@yosemitejazzband.com to discuss booking details and general inquiries. Thank you!

Contact Yosemite Jazz Band