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Thomas Jefferson jazz event to feature alumni and student musicians

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Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:02 p.m.

Alumni and students from Thomas Jefferson High School will unite Sunday to entertain with smooth tunes and sweet treats, as TJ Arts' “Sweet Sweet Jazz” returns to the stage for its third year.

The festival, showcasing jazz musicians from throughout the history of the West Jefferson Hills School District, will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Thomas Jefferson High School auditorium, 310 Old Clairton Road, Jefferson Hills.

Tickets are $15 a person and can be purchased at, by calling 412-655-0747 or at the door. The event also will include bite-sized treats from area bakeries and a gift basket raffle.

“It's an event to get together and celebrate the strong history of the music department at TJ,” said TJ Arts marketing chairwoman and 2005 Thomas Jefferson graduate Julia Suszynski.

Performances will include the TJ Alumni Jazz Band, directed and arranged by retired longtime Thomas Jefferson High School band director Ray DeFade Sr.; the Benny Benack Band, directed and arranged by Benny Benack II; and TJ Jazz Band, directed by Jim Mirabella. Bob Studebaker from 90.5 WESA will emcee the event.

During the last three years, the event has drawn more alumni to perform — many of whom are well known in the jazz music circuit around the Pittsburgh area and beyond, Suszynski said.

The key to drawing students has been DeFade Sr., she said.

“He's really a Pittsburgh jazz legend,” she said.

Proceeds from the event will benefit arts enrichment programs in the West Jefferson Hills schools, three TJ Arts scholarships and the STArts Program, which grants performing lessons to students of artistic promise and financial need.

“We're putting them on for the district and for the community,” Suszynski said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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