For the May 7 First Friday, head downtown to enjoy the music of the Salina Central Jazz Combo. This performance starts at 5 p.m. at the outdoor public plaza next to Ad Astra Books & Coffee House, near the corner of N. Santa Fe Ave. & W. Ash St.
The musical group is made of up eight Salina Central High School (CHS) students and is organized by Ben Rohrer, with rehearsals run by the students. This year’s leader is senior bassist Nelson Gutsch, who will attend Oberlin Conservatory of Music in the fall.
The Salina Central combo had its beginnings in 1995-96. A small group of SCHS students, Grant Mathews (drums), Mike Weber (keyboard), Stephen Rogers (saxophone) and Michael Hamilton (bass) started rehearsing in Mathews’ basement. They wound up getting several gigs during their high-school years. The combo evolved into a student group that rehearsed at Central before school, and has existed ever since.
The group was the featured jazz group at two Kansas Music Educators Conventions – one in 1999 and again last year in 2020. Group members say among its more memorable recent performances was in June 2020, when during the pandemic the combo snuck over to Eric Stein Stage in Oakdale Park and performed a set during the time slot they’d been scheduled to play at the River Festival, had it not been cancelled due to COVID.
Bring your lawn chairs to enjoy the jazz combo’s entire set, or stop by as you check out downtown arts offerings, or shop or grab dinner. Masks are required, per City of Salina Ordnance (No. 20-11034). If you are feeling sick, please stay home.