For Archbald and Valley View graduate Marko Marcinko, bringing jazz to the area has become a lifelong mission. The musician has been hard at work organizing next month’s Scranton Jazz Festival. From August 5-7, venues throughout downtown Scranton will come alive with jazz, blues and world beat music. Get tickets at www.scrantonjazzfestival.org and read on to find out more about what makes the founder tick.
Q: How did you start with music?
A: I was born and raised in Archbald and come from a musical family. All my siblings played instruments and took music and singing lessons in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Saint Cyril and Methodious in Olyphant.
My father, Patrick J. Marcinko, was a well-known musician and music educator. He taught in the Scranton School District for 30 years. My mother Glenda also sang in the church choir and was responsible for taking us to all of these classes. Needless to say, we all grew up playing and listening to music. I learned drums first and then piano, followed by anything else I could get my hands on and try. I play drums, percussion, piano, keyboards, bass guitar and trombone and am relearning the saxophone. I can’t say which is the hardest or the easiest because they all have their challenges.
Q: How did the Scranton Jazz Festival come about?
A: It’s been 18 years since a Saturday night jazz concert at Nay Aug Park sparked this wonderful annual event. That concert featured Grammy Award-winning jazz guitarist Mike Stern, bassist Licoln Goines, and I on drums. Also featured were jazz pianist Steve Rudolph with bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin, and bluesman Teddy Young and the Aces. It grew out of a week-long event called the Summer Music Festival at Nay Aug Park when Mayor Jimmy Connors was in office.
This summer music festival featured food, carnival rides and different styles of music and lasted for several years. When Mayor Connors left office, the festival stopped.
About a year into Chris Doherty’s tenure as Mayor of Scranton, a committee was formed to redesign the summer music festival and by then the idea of a full jazz festival would be great for Scranton and the area. We started at Nay Aug Park… for several years (and)… we moved to the Radisson Hotel.
The pandemic has changed many things for all of us and the festival could not go ahead for 2020 and it has changed our approach to a jazz festival in downtown Scranton in 2021. Last year was one of the most successful festivals we have ever had and our committee and board wanted to keep this great format going into 2022.
Q: What can people expect at this year’s jazz festival?
A: From last year through this year, the festival will reintroduce two major stage events at the Ritz Theater on Wyoming Avenue on August 6th at 7:30pm (where) The Royal Scam will perform. This is a tribute to Steely Dan featuring players from New York City and New Jersey who have a wonderful fan base.
Legendary jazz vocal group The Four Freshmen will perform at 5:30 p.m. on August 7. They will perform with the award-winning Scranton Jazz Festival Big Band and emulate the sounds of the Stan Kenton Orchestra. The website contains a complete list of all artists and venues as well as a list of all our wonderful sponsors who support this festival every year.
Q: What would you say to people who are curious about jazz festivals but don’t really know much about jazz?
A: The festival is a great social gathering of so many people who are very familiar with the artists and the genre, as well as people who are experiencing something for the first time. It’s a great synergy over three days, there is so much to see and hear, great restaurants and bars and businesses that support hosting a live music act either on the street or in a nondescript location. Experiencing this music live is always a great thing.
Q: What do you like to do when you are not organizing the festival?
A: I’ve always made a living as a full-time musician as well as a music educator, and have been playing locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally for years. I have toured and recorded on numerous Grammy nominated and award winning recordings and played festivals in Europe, South America, Japan, Canada, Russia and the USA. I’ve always felt that Scranton can have a jazz festival that’s as popular as any other place in the world. It requires a lot of work and a lot of effort from a team of individuals. I am grateful to our SJF Committee, Executive Director Sarah Effertz and our Board of Directors for their strong belief in this annual event.