David Ruppel of Largo is a banker with a passion for jazz. He's managed banks throughout Pinellas County for more than two decades, and has an active family life with his wife and five children. He's also managed to find time for a labor of love as president of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation board. In this volunteer position, Ruppel is gearing up for the event's 30th anniversary festival, which starts Thursday.
1How did you become involved with Clearwater Jazz Holiday? Twenty-five years ago, when the event was smaller, I went with friends to the festival and we spread out a blanket to enjoy the music. That was my first experience. Eight years ago, I became a member of the board, and then I became president for a two-year term. It's been a great experience.
2 Do you have a musical background? We always sang in the car as I was growing up. My Uncle Ernie was a musician and he had a big influence on me. By the age of 10, I had been to New York City to hear live jazz, and had started playing the saxophone and piano. I continued playing sax in high school and at college at UCF. I love jazz as well as many other types of music.
3 How are the Jazz Holiday performers chosen each year? We have a five-person music committee, which meets throughout the year. They've done an outstanding job of putting together talent for many years. We also work in partnership with Ruth Eckerd Hall. They let us know when a jazz artist will be in Florida at festival time. It's more affordable to bring an artist in if they have another concert nearby.
4 How is the Jazz Holiday able to be offered free of charge? Along with sponsors, memberships and fundraising, the event is supported by more than 1,000 volunteers. It couldn't happen without them. We pay only two people: an administrative assistant and a marketing consultant. That's all. That's amazing with an event that brings 60,000 people in over the four days.
5 Are there any surprises for this year's Jazz Holiday? Over the years, there have always been surprises, especially when a non-headliner is a big hit. This year, we have a Florida vocalist, Nicole Henry, who is really going to surprise people.