WANTAGE — Jazz music lovers had the opportunity to experience a live performance by West Milford residents Vincent Cutro and Mitch Schechter on Sunday at the Sussex-Wantage Library.
The performance was sponsored by the Friends of the library.
"We try to have a variety of musical genres brought live to our community through the library," Friends President Jayne McHugh said.
"I always knew that I wanted to become a music teacher," Cutro said.
After attending the New Jersey University, where he received his B.A in Music Education, Cutro began freelancing and networking as a musician in the New York area, later continuing his education at New York University for his Masters in Jazz Performance.
In 2010, Cutro and keyboardist/pianist Mitch Schechter recorded a CD featuring the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.
“Ellington composed like 5,000 songs,” Cutro said. “He and Strayhorn were amazing musicians. Four years ago, I came up with this project to perform their music as a duo as opposed to a quartet, which is a complete challenge.”
Cutro said at one point, he played with American jazz drummer and bandleader Buddy Rich for a year, and then began traveling with Lionel Hampton.
“I’ve been on between 20-30 tours in Europe and lived in New York City for about a decade performing," he said. Cutro said his main instrument is the trumpet, but he also has taught flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, string base and piano.
In the past, Cutro taught five years in the Jersey City Public School System as a general music teacher and was an adjunct trumpet teacher at New York University. Teaching music a total of 19 years, Cutro teaches instrumental music in the Hackensack public school system.
Otherwise, Cutro performs with his band, Vinnie Cutro and New York City Soundscape featuring musicians Jerry Bergonzi on the tenor saxophone, Billy Hart on drums, Bob Farrel on trombone, pianists Charles Blenzig and Schechter and bass player Jay Anderson.
“Vinnie and I have been playing together for a long time,” said Schechter, who accompanied Cutro during the performance. Schechter has been composing music since he was 12 years old.
“I played the trumpet and then when the Beatles got popular, I started playing the drums," he said. "I started playing the piano because Dad didn’t want to hear the drums anymore. After that, I got my music education bachelor’s degree at Fairleigh Dickinson University and then studied at the Manhattan School of Music. I also taught at the County College of Morris for about seven years, as well.”
Jean Butkus of Hamburg is a “jazz aficionado.”
"The performancce was amazing, really quite a treat," she sai. "It's so good to hear live music at such a high quality."
High Point High School Jazz Band members sophomore Joseph Borowic, 16, and junior Riley Whelan, 16, of Sussex were present at the event. After high school, Borowic plans to go to school for music.
"I can't see myself doing anything else," he said. "I play the saxophone. It's my passion. Watching these guys play was fun."