Support the Black and Gold

BY SARAH MASON, Neighborhood News Bureau

ST. PETERSBURG — Friends, family and teachers came together Saturday night at the Museum of Fine Arts to show support for the Lakewood High School Jazz Ensemble and the 54th Ave South Jazz Combo’s Black and Gold Benefit Concert. Special guests John Brown, Belinda Womack and Butch Thomas came to perform with the students and rub some of their knowledge and talents off on them.

The concert was created to fund the ensemble’s trip to New Orleans this March for the Crescent City Music Festival, which features and awards all kinds of music ensembles from all over the country. This event benefits the students by introducing them to other musicians and helping them grow in their talents.

Lakewood High School Jazz Band Director Michael Kernodle said the students will also get the chance to go to Loyola University in Chicago for a master class and meet with musicians.

This would be the second year they get to attend this event. “Last time we went, it changed their whole lives,” Kernodle added.

In order to make the price less heavy on the student’s wallets, they are hoping to raise around $13-$15,000 by March. Tickets for Saturday’s event were $20 and included a silent auction, which raised $950.

But even though the money was an important factor, it wasn’t the main goal of the event, according to Kernodle. “The biggest thing is exposure to the community and to let them know what we are doing,” he explained.

Kernodle had been working with a team of parents and teachers to plan this event since the start of the year. “We wanted to make it bigger and better. We had a big think tank and we all thought about downtown,” Kernodle said about choosing the museum as their location.

The event kicked off with a New Orleans style entrance with Kernodle in the lead playing the trumpet while the band followed to the front of the room passing out beaded necklaces.

As the student virtuosos filled the room with syncopated rhythms reminiscent of the Miles Davis Quintet, the audience couldn’t help but dance in their seats.

“[I] thought they were amazing! I’m really proud of them,” Kristie Dowling, an English teacher at Lakewood High School, said.  She plans to make it a habit to come to more events after this.

David Deister, a Lakewood High School senior, plays lead trombone in the ensemble and cannot wait to get to New Orleans. “I’ve heard we will tour schools and maybe I’ll get to audition,” Deister said. After graduation this May, he will join the army and plans to further his music by auditioning for the army band.

If you would like to help these students get to the Crescent City Music Festival in New Orleans next month, please contact Michael Kernodle at (727) 893-2916 ext. 2186 or

Sarah Mason is a reporter in the Neighborhood News Bureau at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

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