Remembering Skipp at the 2017 SC Jazz Festival

I, Mark Rapp, had the honor of hosting and playing the headlining concert at the 2017 SC Jazz Festival for the Dizzy Gillespie’s Centennial Celebration. It was an amazing evening filled with fiery trumpeters, Eleazar Shaffer and Jon Thornton, accompanied by the up-and-coming, saxophone phenom, Ben Eidson, and backed by an all-star band with Danny Boozer on the drums, Dustin Retzlaff on bass and Sean Mason on the piano. The concert was sold-out and we presented all kind of Dizzy Gillespie tunes complete with multimedia presentations of a huge image slideshow and historic video footage by Dizzy himself introducing some of the tunes. Dr. Al Fraser, co-author of “To Be or Not to Bop“, narrated the concert as well.

In the middle of the show, I paused to celebrate and honor the late Skipp Pearson. Below are my words… <!–with the first paragraph provided by a volunteer of the Skipp Pearson Foundation… –>

Many of you may know that South Carolina’s Official Ambassador, the late Skipp Pearson passed this life on Monday June 5, 2017. As we honor the one hundredth birthday of the late Jazz Master Dizzy Gillespie, South Carolina’s first ambassador of Jazz Music, we also salute Jazz Master Skipp Pearson.

Skipp Pearson saw a state that celebrates the arts and thrives on diversity. He saw culturally rich cities growing in all sectors, inspired by the creative endeavors of our state’s artists. He saw our collective community reveling in the soulful and the sophisticated that is affirmed, explored and celebrated through the living music of jazz. 

To know Skipp, you need to know a little something about Jazz. To know jazz, all you had to do was meet Skipp. Jazz music is an eternally active music. It is a music based on communication regardless of who you are, where you come from, what you believe or what you look like. Jazz doesn’t deal in the superficial. Instead, jazz dwells in the deep. Jazz is a music about humanity. It teaches us to be tolerant of the different and to openly explore differences with genuine curiosity and excitement. Jazz teaches us how to thoughtfully handle conflict with intelligence, empathy and integrity. Jazz teaches us to be accepting of others and to work well with them. It teaches us to listen as much as we talk. Jazz teaches us the reality of constant change and how to wrestle through the tensions and releases to create something beautiful. It faces adversity straight-on and sees it through until we arrive at an exalted resolution, leaving us satisfied and fundamentally improved. Jazz demands that one always seeks to better oneself. It asks of us to speak with passion and authority, while at the same time, being immediately willing to celebrate an opposing view and humbly accept a different outcome. Jazz is love. Jazz is Skipp; Skipp is jazz.

Skipp was a friend and will always be an inspiration. He played patiently just as he was patient with others. He played with love just as he loved everyone. He played with soulful sophistication. If he wasn’t making the music, he was out where it was being made and out supporting others into the wee small hours of the morning. He welcomed everyone. Skipp Pearson made Columbia become “Jazz Town USA!” Skipp was a beautiful cat and he will be dearly missed. We love you Skipp.

A version of this and a more in depth interview can be found in the Fall 2017 issue of Jasper Magazine.