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Dragon Jazz Band, Johnny Nicholas to Collaborate on 3 Big Island Shows

January 16, 2020, 4:12 PM HST
* Updated September 8, 3:23 PM
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Johnny Nicholas. PC: Cameron Gott

Blues act Johnny Nicholas, of Austin, Texas will perform with the young musicians of Dragon Jazz Band for three concerts on Hawai‘i Island this month.

The shows will be at the Hilo Palace Theatre on Saturday, Jan. 25, Gertrude’s Jazz Club in Kailua-Kona on Sunday, Jan. 26 and the Blue Dragon Tavern in Kawaihae on Sunday, Feb. 2.

Led by Gary Washburn, music director of Grammy Foundation Award-winning group at Honoka‘a High School, the Dragon Jazz Band is a select group of students who have proven themselves as strong performers,ready for a professional music experience, according to a press release.

“The involvement of Gary’s very talented group of kids is a collaboration that has provided for a very exciting show and a tremendous learning experience for the fledgling Honoka‘a musicians,” said Nicholas, who has been involved in similar educational projects in Texas over the last 20 years. “It is amazing to see what kids can do when they get involved and excited by musical stimulus and exposure of this nature and professional level.”

Nicholas is no stranger to Hawai‘i, having toured the state with his band, Hell Bent, as well as backing up Delbert McClinton and Marcia Ball. Nicholas, described as one of the premier blues and roots music interpreters and artists alive today, has performed with blues legends such as BB King, Big Walter Horton and Johnny Shines. He was one of the lead singers, writers and multi-instrumentalists in the band Asleep at the Wheel when they won their first of many Grammy Awards.

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“The opportunity to tour and perform with Johnny Nicolas offers many educational opportunities not normally offered in the high school education system,” said Washburn. “Students work with and experience the real professional tour and road expectations and responsibilities. Setting up, sound checking, rehearsing while on the road, and interacting with professional musicians offers a great mentoring opportunity.”

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Nicholas will be touring with some of his band members and will spend an entire week prior to the shows working with Gary Washburn and his Honoka’a students on their repertoire. In addition to the talented horn section, this year’s Dragon Jazz Band will include several musicians and singers, all of whom will perform as a part of Nicholas’s band in the three shows.

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