In April 1969, Bob Delly gathered a group of eighth graders from several Lake County schools, Wickliffe Middle, Willoughby Junior, Mentor Ridge, Mentor Memorial and his own J. R. Williams in Painesville. With the cooperation and approval of their directors, John Sanchez, Ray Rinaldi, Jean Kelly and Muril Zimmerman a supplemental jazz ensemble was born. They rehearsed at J. R. Williams. All the members returned for the next full year and more joined as the group was now in full "swing." These original members played together and became Jazz Impact. Highlight of the early years was the first Lakeland Jazz Festival in 1973. Mr. Charles Frank asked Bob and the group to play the festival with known artist Clark Terry. Impact rose to the occasion and was off and running.
Bob handed the baton to Len Orcino in the fall of 1974. The band was now rehearsing at Lake Catholic High School where Len was director of bands. Already a well-known and powerful group, it was easy to find places to play. The band played at jazz festivals. Often these festivals had both college and high school sections and Impact usually played as the first band at the college division. Honors or all-star high school groups were uncommon and frowned on. The band played school concerts, mall concerts even Tuesday nights at Joey's Jazz Club. Again Charles Frank was kind enough to ask us to play the Lakeland Jazz Festival. This time we played will Bill Watrous and it was the whole first half of the evening.
Our next big goal was the famous Notre Dame Jazz Festival. We continued playing concerts at malls, taking donations, etc. and our elusive and now somewhat famous album," Impact Live '77" - the fundraiser for the Notre Dame trip.
At Notre Dame, we weren't allowed to compete because of our status as an honors or all-star band. We played during the judging of the high school division of the festival. We were asked to play for 15 minutes. We eventually played for about 40. Everyone was amazed that we continued to pullout chart after chart and blew their socks off. Most bands went with three tunes. We played at least 10 with great solos. Most impressive. We played our entire album.
We were asked to join the community of performing groups at Lakeland the next year, an offer we couldn't refuse. Thank you Chuck Frank! We finally had a budget for music. We continued to play the Lakeland Jazz Festivals up to 1985. We performed at other jazz festivals on a regular basis including -- Tri-C, Akron University and The Ohio State University. We played our school, mall and special concerts in Lake, Geauga and Cuyahoga Counties. We were honored to perform at the Ohio Music Educators Association Convention, where we performed a mini-concert and provided a demonstration band for Ray Wright from the Eastman School of Music. We made 11 appearances (taped) on WKYC Sunday Magazine morning TV show with Tom Haley.
We fortunately have tapes of the Lakeland Jazz Festivals to document these fine bands. I'm still amazed after all my years as a director at how exceptional some of the playing and soloing is on many of these tapes. I also am fortunate to have kept photo albums of our performances and a picture is worth more than words. If you could see some of the photos on the bus to Notre Dame. These joys are all precious but only secondary to making music itself and that's why we're here. Close encounter of the best kind.