Legendary jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson gave a fund-raising concert Tuesday evening at North Collins High School, a rural school with fewer than 400 students.
But all 400 seats in the auditorium were filled by jazz fans, many of them coming from across Western New York to take advantage of the school's rare good fortune.
The bonanza was sparked by North Collins Jazz Ensemble director Jill Dueringer, who grew up in Derby and is only five years out of Fredonia State College's music program.
"Maynard Ferguson sends fliers to schools," Dueringer said before the performance. "He'd never come to a venue this small, would he? It was worth taking a chance. I was tickled pink when he said yes."
Ferguson's 10-member Big Bop Nouveau Band is composed mostly of college-age musicians, and the 76-year-old trumpeter seems intent on leaving his mark on the youngest musicians and fans across the country.
"I'm still in the jazz generation that he's nurturing," Dueringer said.
Principal Ben Halsey could barely contain his enthusiasm.
"It's a great opportunity for our students, particularly our jazz musicians, to play with such a top-notch performer," he said. "Even if we don't make money for our band, it's a great plus for our students and for the community."
While the school's Jazz Ensemble tooled up for its opening role, Ferguson took a nap in the school library. Then he ordered steak -- rare -- shrimp cocktail, a gallon of spring water and an iron and ironing board. His band members partook of a pot-luck supper served by parents of the students and the Music Boosters.
The Jazz Ensemble warmed up the crowd with "Birdland," "A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square" and "Swinging," an original piece by Les Sabina, music department chairman at St. Bonaventure University.
When the ruddy, barrel-chested Ferguson, wearing a neatly pressed brown suit, took to the stage with his band, he immediately called for a round of applause for the North Collins Jazz Ensemble. Then he began blowing on his trumpet, which looked somewhat dwarfed on his hands but produced the intoxicating, near-deafening high notes for which he is famous.
After beginning each number with another startling outburst from his trumpet, Ferguson directed the other players, laughing and thoroughly enjoying himself as he egged them on by picking notes out of the air. They played their hearts out for him, and after each solo he called out their names and shook their hands.
Harold Christie, of the Town of Tonawanda, had driven his trumpeter son, Michael, 9, to North Collins without telling him who was on the program.
"Thank you, Dad!" Michael exclaimed when he saw Ferguson's name outside the school. "I want to learn how to hit those high notes three lines above the staff."
"That's only where Maynard Ferguson starts his day," his dad replied.
Another photo on Picture Page C10