High Energy Dixieland & Traditional Jazz
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 Teddy Strauss, Jimmy Kirin, and other local musicians about forming a traditional jazz band. It wasn’t long before the band was rolling along.
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, Jimmy Kirin on Percussion, Elva Gurule on Trumpet, Les Nunes on Trombone, Pete Scaffidi on Bass, and Maynard Williams on Piano. 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.
The Yosemite Jazz Band calendar offers a complete list of upcoming performances.
On the Road
MEET THE BAND
Yosemite Jazz Band Members
Featured Next Generation Jazz All-Star
ELVA GURULE │ Trumpet
Elva first began performing with the Yosemite Jazz Band as a young child singing her favorite traditional jazz songs with the band. In 2018 and to the surprise of her dad, she took a strong interest in playing the trumpet. Elva is a natural on the trumpet, playing beyond her years to where she soon began performing regularly with the band. Her passionate playing 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, Jeff.
Elva has played in many venues with the Yosemite Jazz Band, including the Fresno Sounds of Mardi Gras and the Monterey Jazz Bash by the Sea festivals. She is currently studying Music and Jazz at Loyola University in New Orleans. The band is proud to showcase such a promising young talent.
JEFF GURULE, Band Leader and Emcee - Banjo & Guitar
Jeff joined the Yosemite Jazz Band in the summer of 2001 as plectrum banjo and guitar player. With little experience at the time with four-string banjo, 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 and a newfound leadership role in the band. Jeff’s energetic playing style has been influenced by plectrum banjo greats Don Van Pelta, Brad Roth, Lee Floyd and others.
Jeff plays his guitar and five-string banjo in a number of other bands, performing many different genres of music that include bluegrass, pop, rock, blues, and country. Most notably, Jeff sings and plays his five-string banjo with the Sugar Pine Band, performing two nights a week over the Spring and Summer at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.
BERL HOWELL, Band Founder - Trumpet & Cornet
Berl is the founder and original leader 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. 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. Though he retired from the band in 2023, you may notice on occasion him sitting-in with the band to share his extreme soulful playing and good-hearted enthusiasm, which continues to inspire both the band and the audience.
TEDDY STRAUSS, Reeds
Teddy, co-founder of the Yosemite Jazz Band, has been playing clarinet nearly all his life. In high school, the sounds of the Count Basie Orchestra caught his ear, which prompted him to take-up the tenor saxophone 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, symphony orchestras, clarinet choirs, 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.
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, Jimmy’s love for traditional jazz once led him to participate 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.
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.
PETE SCAFFIDI, Bass
Peter Scaffidi 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. Peter 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.
Peter 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.
Peter is a much-in-demand session musician for performances in Jazz, big band and pop styles, and musical theater. Among Peter’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, Peter keeps busy… playing with the Yosemite Jazz Band, Diamonds After Dark, Sunnyside Big Band, Sunnyside Dixieland Band, Real Jazz, and Shades of Jazz. Peter also performs weekly at the Oak Hills Church in Clovis.
MAYNARD WILLIAMS, Piano
Maynard Williams is the newest member of the Yosemite Jazz Band, joining 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.
yosemite jazz band through the years
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss booking details and general inquiries. Thank you!