high energy Dixieland & traditional jazz

Yosemite

Jazz Band

About us

28 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, our band’s fearless leader, 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.

Sounds of Mardi Gras Festival, Fresno Ca, February 2022
From Left to Right: Teddy Strauss, Bonnie Otto, Les Nunes, Jeff Gurule, Elva Gurule, Berl Howell, Marshall Gentry (Guest Drummer), and Sigal Cossman.

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 James Mierkey, Jeff Gurule, Elva Gurule, Les Nunes, and Sigal Cossman. The band has been thrilled to add Bonnie Otto to our line-up as an alternate piano player for out-of-town gigs. Bonnie has performed with the band at the Sacramento Hot Jazz Jubilee and the Fresno Sounds of Mardi Gras festival. Our current band line-up is the most exciting and entertaining version of the band yet!

The band has recorded three albums over the years: two studio albums, “Will Play For Food” and “Ain’t Got A Lousy Dime”, and a live album “The Next Stage” comprised of performances recorded at the California Mid-State Fair. 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 has played the Sounds of Mardi Gras Festival each year for the last 15 years.

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.

Jazz & Pizza Thurs Nights

LIVE MUSIC – FOOD – DRINKS – FAMILY FUN

Join Us Every Thursday from 6:30 – 8:30PM  |  May – September

at the Pizza Factory in Oakhurst, CA

Enjoy a pizza, the warm summer evening & our traditional jazz sounds with good company under the covered patio.

Upcoming Performances

The band performs every Thursday night at the Pizza Factory from 6:30 PM through 8:30 PM, from May through September. Yosemite Jazz Band also performs at festivals and other events throughout the year. Visit the calendar page to view a complete list of upcoming performances. 

FRESNO DIXIELAND SOCIETY PRESENTS…

“Roaring 20’s” Sunday Dance

with Yosemite Jazz Band

sun, AUG 14   1:00 – 5:00pm

fresno, CA

| view more info

Get directions

The Pizza Factory

THURS, JUl 7     6:30 – 8:30PM
OAKHURST, CA | GET DIRECTIONS

The Pizza Factory

THURS, JUl 14    6:30 – 8:30PM
OAKHURST, CA | GET DIRECTIONS

The Pizza Factory

THURS, JUl 21    6:30 – 8:30PM
OAKHURST, CA | GET DIRECTIONS

The Pizza Factory

THURS, JUl 28    6:30 – 8:30PM
OAKHURST, CA | GET DIRECTIONS

The Pizza Factory

THURS, aug 4    6:30 – 8:30PM
OAKHURST, CA | GET DIRECTIONS

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, to the surprise of her father Jeff, she took a strong interest in the trumpet.  Elva is a natural on the trumpet, playing beyond her years, and soon began performing with the band.  Elva’s passionate playing impresses audiences whenever she performs.  Elva is very active on the trumpet, playing in her high school jazz band, wind ensemble, and marching band.  Elva has been regularly selected to perform in the County Honor Bands including the jazz band, orchestra, and concert band and has been selected as a feature soloist each year.  In addition, Elva plays in a local rock/pop band with her father Jeff.  Elva has performed at a number of venues with the band including several years at the Sounds of Mardi Gras Festival.  The band is proud to showcase such a promising young talent.

BERL HOWELL, Trumpet

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, 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 Band caught his ear and prompted 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.

JEFF GURULE, Banjo & Guitar

Jeff joined the band in the summer of 2001 as plectrum banjo and guitar player.  With little experience at the time with 4-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 Jeff 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 such as Don Van Pelta, Brad Roth, and Lee Floyd.  Jeff plays guitar and 5-string banjo in a number of other bands, performing many different genres of music including bluegrass, pop, rock, blues, and country.  Most notably, Jeff sings and plays 5-string banjo with the band Sugar Pine who perform two nights a week in the spring and summer at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.

Photo of Les Nunes
LES NUNES, Trombone

Les began playing trombone with the Yosemite Jazz Band in 2020. Les’s musical talents contribute greatly to the band. Les has a deep musical background and is a well-respected musician in the Central Valley of California.  As a music educator of 35 years, he taught at Clovis High and Clark Intermediate, Roosevelt School of the Arts, Bullard High and Sunny Hills High schools. He has served as an adjunct instructor at Fresno State, Fresno Pacific, 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, Yosemite Jazz Band, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Frankie Valli, Bobby Vinton, Kaye Starr, Gloria Gaynor, The Who, Gladys Knight, Andy Gibb, Melissa Manchester, Guy Lombardo Orch., Stars of the Lawrence Welk show and many others. He has also performed overseas in Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Germany, South Africa and Swaziland.

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 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.

Photo of Les Nunes
SIGAL COSSMAN, Upright Bass

Sigal is our most recent band member, joining the Yosemite Jazz Band in 2021.  Sigal’s love for traditional jazz and the upright bass was born attending Fresno’s Sounds of Mardi Gras festival at an early age. From memories as a toddler in the parasol parades to playing on stage with the Raisin Babies Dixieland Jazz Band in high school, New Orleans style jazz has always held a special place in her heart. Her early years in Fresno, CA playing upright bass, piano, and singing under the wing of Dave Ruffner, director of Blue Street Jazz Band, were the foundation for her jazz education. Sigal went on to earn a BA in Music Therapy from Loyola University of New Orleans where she studied both classical and jazz bass and played in Loyola’s Symphony and Chamber Orchestras.

Photo of Les Nunes
JAMES MIERKEY, Piano

James joined the Yosemite Jazz Band in 2002 as a piano player.  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 began playing the piano. James has an extreme interest in all forms of jazz music, especially traditional jazz. His enthusiasm 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, taking on the roles of musician, arranger, musical director, and recording engineer.

Photo of Bonnie Otto
BONNIE OTTO, Piano

Bonnie Otto first began playing with the Yosemite Jazz Band in 2018 at the Sacramento Hot Jazz Jubilee.  Bonnie has become a regular alternate piano player for the band at festival performances.  Bonnie is no stranger to the trad jazz scene and played in the Sacramento area for many years and is well-regarded as a musician and arranger for a number of bands. Her stride-style playing is highly energetic and a joy to watch. The Yosemite Jazz Band is always thrilled to have Bonnie join the band for selected performances.

yosemite jazz band through the years

Photo Gallery

Events

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 yosemitejazzband@gmail.com to discuss booking details & general inquiries. Thank you!

Contact Yosemite Jazz Band