Music in the air: Integrity Jazz Festival comes back to town

The annual Integrity Jazz Festival returned to Minot Saturday at Scandinavian Heritage Park to fill the air with music from small combos to big band swing.

The event, which has been held yearly except for 2011 when Minot was inundated by flood water, kicked off at 1 p.m. with the Youth Spotlight, led by Micah Holmen, 20, a saxophone student at Minot State University who just finished his sophomore year.

“It’s a beautiful summer afternoon,” said Bob Holmen, Micah’s grandfather who was at the event, before saying that he and his wife, Pat, have gotten into jazz since they began following their grandson’s music career.

“I think he was one of the first winners of the youth spotlight several years ago and now he coordinated this with this year’s winners into a little combo,” Pat Holmen said.

But their appreciation doesn’t just extend to their grandson.

“We do enjoy this type of easy listening music,” Pat said as the brass of the Swing Band of Minot, which took the stage after the Youth Spotlight, hung over the conversation. “It’s a good band.”

The Swing Band of Minot, a big-band composed of all local musicians, filled the air with their tight and easy takes on jazz classics like “Blueberry Hill,” popularized by Glenn Miller and later Fats Domino and recently sung by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at a charity event in 2010, and even “Won’t You be My Neighbor?,” the theme to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

“My mom was a music teacher and she got me started and I never quit,” said Justin Johnson, who has played tenor saxophone with the Minot Swing Band for the last seven or eight years. He started when he was in fifth grade.

“I have a music degree, so for a couple years I was teaching music,” Johnson said. “We’re trained to do all of them. But my primary focus is clarinet, saxophone, flute.”

Johnson was quick to mention all the local events where an interested party can hear local music, including Minot State University’s Summer Theater, where he has played woodwind instruments for the last 18 years, the Magic City Jazz Festival in February, and Arts in the Park during the summer.

But, other than the occasional band at Off the Vine, a Minot wine bar who also was one of many sponsors for the jazz festival, there isn’t a venue in Minot dedicated to jazz bands.

“It would be nice,” said Todd Cresap, a Northwest Judicial District judge and a clarinet player in the Minot Swing Band, on the idea of a local jazz bar. “They certainly have the people who can play in it. It would be interesting to see if it would have enough appeal.”

But music wasn’t the only thing at the festival. Stands lined the primary sidewalk selling handmade wares.

“Usually I do okay,” said Jacque Younger, who said her last name means “the opposite of older,” on sales of her knitted and quilted garments and blankets.

“I do it because I like the music and it gives me a good reason to stay out here all day,” she said.

Younger has attended each event held, except for 2011 because there wasn’t one and in 2012 when her husband, a member of the Air Force who moved here with her from Japan 30 years ago, were spending the summer moving into a new home.

Even though she’s not a featured performer, Younger does sing with a local Minot group, the Chamber Chorale, and plays guitar.