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Northwest Iowa Musicians to rock Jazz & Blues Festival

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Northwest Iowa Musicians will be performing at the Copper Cup from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Jan. 13. File photo by Mike Leckband
Area talent returns to popular Cherokee music bash

Dave Napier, Stephen Smith, Ray Guntren, Joey Gulizia and Eddie Dunn make up a group they call the Northwest Iowa Musicians, and they will be returning to the Cherokee Jazz and Blues Festival in 2012. The group will be performing at the Copper Cup from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Jan 13.

Dave Napier has played with many bands in the Sioux City Iowa area, including the Seven Sons and The Velaires. He also spent several years working in the music field in the Chicago area, and now plays with a Dixieland group, the Dixie Daddies. He has appeared at Iowa Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame events several times performing with Hall-of-Famers The Velaires, Flames and others. He is a very accomplished musician who has the ability to pick up almost any instrument and play it. He also is a singer, and has added great background vocals on many recordings.

Stephen Smith has been playing jazz since age 5, when he appeared on a Sioux City television program, "Toast for Teens." He played on that show with Cherokee's own Tommy Thomas, who later spent many years performing with Louis Prima and Sam Butara in Las Vegas. Stephen played throughout high school with his dad's band which performed in the Northwest Iowa area for about 30 years. He featured Cherokee's Art Awe on piano. Awe was a very proficient jazz stride pianist in the style of Fats Waller.

Stephen attended Iowa State and performed in, and later was the director of, the ISU Jazz ensemble. As a saxophone player with the Spectacle, a rhythm and blues band, Stephen was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Through the years, he has performed in his own groups, including Gentle Persuasion, with his wife Linda on drums. He also played with many area jazz musicians through the years, including Marty Crandell, Jeff Guntren, Chris Smith, and Reggie Schive. For the past eight years, Stephen has played piano in the Dick Bauman Monday Night Big Band at Okoboji.

He also performed as keyboardist for the Northwest Iowa Musicians in the Cherokee Jazz & Blues Festival in January of 2006-2009, 2011, and will again be with the group in January 2012.

Ray Guntren was born and reared in Storm Lake, and has been playing guitar since he was 14. Prior to having a "real" guitar, his first stringed instrument was a shoe box with rubber bands stretched across it. His love of music was partly influenced by his father's "old time" fiddling.

In the mid-60's, Ray helped form a rock band by the name of "The Galaxies," which evolved into an ensemble by the name of "The Soul Survivors." That group changed its name to "Milk & Honey," after another band with the same name garnered a top 40 hit ('Expressway to Your Heart').

The five-piece group traveled the Midwest playing dance halls, college venues, and various community functions. Ray left the group in 1968. He was playing in a night club in Burlington when he got an offer for full time employment as an apprentice instrument technician with MidBell Music in Storm Lake, and in 1972, he was promoted to manager of a newly opened MidBell branch store in Sioux City. Musically, Ray spent the next 20 years playing with church ensembles and for his own enjoyment. In the early 90's, Ray rekindled his love of jazz and playing.

He was influenced partly by the fine playing of his two sons, Mike & Jeff, who were both up and coming saxophone players. Both sons got some experience jazz combo work with dad playing rhythm guitar.

Mike is general manager of Ray's MidBell Music and currently plays with Sioux City's own "Board of Directors," a 10-piece, Chicago-style big band. Jeff graduated from UNI with a degree in jazz studies. He has traveled the world as a professional musician employed by Carnival, Norwegian, Holland America & Princess cruise lines. Ray also has a daughter who is studying piano and teaching at Indiana University while she is working on her doctorate in music theory.

Ray has played with the Sioux City Jazz Orchestra, the Northwest Iowa Big Band, The Eddie Dunn Project, Pete Hittle, Sioux City Orchestra, Briar Cliff University, Doreen's Jazz New Orleans, and his own ensemble called Ambience. He is also a free-lancer with numerous area ensembles. Over the years, Ray has had the privilege of being on the bandstand with notables such as Roger Neuman, Mike Vax, Ryan and Justin Kisor, and Adam Schroeder.

He has taught adult guitar instruction at both Iowa Central and Western Iowa Tech Community Colleges, as well as providing private group instruction. He is the owner and operator of Ray's MidBell Music in Sioux City, and he resides in Sioux City with his wife (and flautist) Karen.

Joey Gulizia is a professional musician who has been performing since childhood. By the age of 10, he was drumming regularly with his father Joe Gulizia Sr. and brother Tony. Both of the Gulizia brothers have made music a lifelong occupation.

Along with performing and entertaining, Joey has been involved in music education for over 30 years. He has conducted hundreds of residencies, workshops and clinics for students of all ages. In 1994, he was given the "Excellence in Education" award by the Governor of Nebraska, and was inducted into the "Nebraska Music Hall of Fame" in 2001.

Music has taken him all over the world, and he continues to travel extensively. He has worked on many musical projects, and can be heard on more than 50 recordings with various groups and individuals.

Eddie Dunn was born and raised in Huron, SD., and earned an undergraduate degree at USD and a Masters degree at Southwest Minnesota State University. Eddie has worked at many jobs, traveled extensively,and lived many places. He moved to Sioux City from California in 1988, and has been employed at Western Iowa Tech Community College and KWIT radio since 1989. He is currently Director Of Distance & Global Education at WITCC, as well as host of "Saturday Night Jazz," and serving as a public affairs interviewer for KWIT-KOJI Radio.

Eddie also does freelance "voice talent" work. He serves on Yamanashi Sister City Committee for the city of Sioux City and various professional organizations. He is married to Dr. Genell Sandberg, a Clinical Psychologist, and they have two children, ages 14 and 11.

He has been a professional musician since he was a teenager, performing as an electric bass player and vocalist. He has played jazz for 35 years, and in Sioux City for 20 years. From 1981 to 1986, he played with "Jazz Portraits," a touring jazz quintet funded by the SD Arts Council. He later played with various groups in Seattle and in the San Francisco Bay area, and recorded one jazz CD with the trio "Red Road," In recent years, Eddie has played mostly under the name of Eddie Dunn Project.

The Cherokee Jazz and Blues Festival will be held Jan. 13 and Jan. 14, in Cherokee.

Festival tickets are available at the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce, 225-6414, The Copper Cup, 225-5287, and State Farm Insurance, 225-5747.

For more information on the 2012 Cherokee Jazz and Blues Festival go to www.cherokeejazzbluesfestival.com.

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