By Mark Sisti
Ask anyone who this area’s top big band is. You don’t need to whisper. It’s not a secret. It’s Classified (Oh, wow, that’s clever. I kill me).
Classified will be coming out of its annual winter hibernation Friday night. But this season opener has special meaning for this all-star group of musicians, as they will be performing for the Joseph Michael Chubbuck Foundation’s annual fundraiser.
The foundation provides financial assistance to cancer patients and their families so that monthly expenses – essentials like rent, utility bills, groceries, medical equipment and supplies, car insurance and treatment travel expenses – can be paid.
Joseph Michael Chubbuck passed away in 2013 at the age of 22 after a 16-month battle with a highly aggressive variant of sarcoma. Rather than surrendering to their grief, Joey’s parents, Joe and Barb, turned their tragedy into an opportunity to help others with this foundation.
And fortunately for the Foundation, one of the many friends Joseph made in his all-too short lifetime was Classified trumpeter Scott Rutledge.
“I taught Joey trumpet at St. Peter’s school in Rome,” recalls Rutledge. “He fought a battle that I could never put into words. Classified is humbled and truly privileged to be able to perform at this benefit.”
That appreciation is certainly reciprocated by Joey’s parents.
“The band felt it was for a good cause, and they knew where the proceeds would be going,” says Barb Chubbuck. “We are honored and blessed to have Classified perform for us.”
The Foundation couldn’t have found better entertainment for its event.
Since its inception in the early 1990s, Classified has grown into the area’s most polished and popular big band, presenting a level of professionalism and attention to detail that sets them apart from most local bands. It has led to opening slots for artists like KC, The Commodores, Eddie Money, Maynard Ferguson, Gap Mangione, the Pointer Sisters and Earth, Wind and Fire.
“I hope that Classified is perceived as musician’s musicians who know how to play for everyone,” says bass player Greeley Ford. “We combine the best of the classics with the best of today. We try to make everybody like us.”
The band has seen many incarnations since their early days, leading to the current lineup of (in addition to Rutledge and Ford) Larry Desiato, lead vocals, percussion; Gary Colmey, keyboards, vocals; Michael Dimeo, trumpet, vocals; Carl Goodhines, keyboards; John Dugan, drums; Bill Mirgo, guitar; Joey Zarr, woodwinds; and Marty Hollister, trombone, vocals.
Friday’s benefit will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. at Valentino’s Banquet Hall, Oneida Street, New Hartford. Dinner/show tickets are $35 per person and are available by calling 315-339-5993 or visiting www.thejmcf.org. Reservations for dinner are required, but $20 tickets for the show only (8-10 p.m.) will be available at the door.
Mark Sisti is an experienced performer and promoter who writes about local music for the Observer-Dispatch.