Amanda Matthews – Piano Amanda began playing piano at the age of three, playing songs she had heard from her Dad and songs from church. She began formal lessons at age five and continued to study piano throughout high school. In 1988 she moved to Atlanta where she earned a degree in piano performance from Georgia State University, and she subsequently continued her studies in Austria.
Back in the States and inspired both by the great classical composers and by jazz legends such as Bill Evans and Marion McPartland. Amanda became a member of The Banyan Trio, a jazz ensemble that performed throughout the Southeast. While in Atlanta, Amanda was a favorite at the Ritz Carlton, she was keyboardist for the Atlanta Braves pep band, and she was active in the Local Music Teachers Association. She also has played on the Orient Express!
Ms. Matthews moved to Panama City in 2005 to be closer to her family and for eight years she taught comprehensive musicianship at Northside Elementary (k-5). She has served as president of the Music Teachers Association, was voted Teacher of the Year, served on the board of our local Jazz Society, performed in Oaks by the Bay Jazz Festival and in 2007 she recorded a CD with Panama City vocalist, Sharon Carroll. Since 2012 Amanda has worked with guitarist Ted Shumate, together playing at local restaurants and private parties in the area. She served for a period as music director at Unity of Panama City and, inspired to begin writing her own music, she teamed up with singer-songwriter and fellow music teacher, Gary Nichols. The two released “All I Came Here to Be”, several songs from which they performed during our UUFBC Sunday service on December 15, 2013. That release is available on CD Baby, Amazon and Itunes. Amanda has also played at The Pearl and she is now playing at Acme ice House, both on 30A, and she continues to give private instruction in piano.
Jason Bennett – Sax A native of Panama City Beach, Jason is currently the Band Director of the Blue Thunder Band Program at J. R. Arnold High School. During his time as Band Director, he has continued the school’s rich tradition of excellence receiving Superior scores in Marching and Concert festival as well as performing in front of over 80,000 people at the Fed-Ex Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Championship Game (Florida vs. Oklahoma) in Miami, FL on January 8th, 2009. In 2010, the Symphonic Band, Indoor Percussion and Jazz Ensemble, placed first in all areas at the Smokey Mountain Music Festival in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Jason obtained his Bachelor’s Degree from Faulkner University in Saxophone Performance and in 2009, received his Masters of Music in Music Education from Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts. He also teaches Music Theory I & II, Ear Training and Sight Singing, as well as Applied Lessons for Gulf Coast Community College.
As a saxophonist and trumpeter, Jason has played across the southeast with local jazz and classical groups such as the Playground Big Band, Gulf Coast Sinfonia Orchestra, Cloud 9 Jazz Orchestra, Panama City Pops Orchestra, Bay Wind Band, and many more. Mr. Bennett has also performed professionally with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra led by Buddy Morrow, The Temptations, and Victor Lopez from the Miami Sound Machine. Jason continues to perform throughout Panama City Beach and around the region.
Steve Gilmore – String Bass Born in Trenton, NJ, Steve’s musical experiences began at age twelve when he played in Pennsbury (Pennsylvania) High School’s progressive music program. By age fourteen he was being hired to play at the local beer hall for eight or ten dollars a night. A few years later he expanded his playing to area symphony orchestras and local big bands. Living close to Philadelphia enabled him to hear such fine players as John Coltrane, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins and Wynton Kelly, integrating what he was hearing into his own music. After high school, Gilmore spent a short time in Toronto attending the Advanced School of Contemporary Music, then staffed by The Oscar Peterson Trio. Ray Brown was his teacher.
Upon his return to Pennsylvania in 1961, Steve worked the Pocono Mountains resorts, developing by playing regularly, and with, some very fine musicians including Bob Newman, Jerry Dodgion, Ray Bryant and Jerry Segal.
In 1967, Steve left the Poconos for Miami, Florida without any real plans and stayed for four years, working with jazz great Ira Sullivan and other fine jazz artists including Joe Diorio, Chuck Marohnic, Flip Phillips, Paul Winter and Vince Lawrence. Another move back to the Poconos in 1971 associated him with drummer Bill Goodwin for the first time, and together they formed the rhythm team for several bands including The Chamber Jazz Quintet, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, Tom Waits, Mose Allison and The National Jazz Ensemble (under the direction of Chuck Israels). In February, 1974 Gilmore and Goodwin both joined The Phil Woods Quartet at it’s inception and anchor the Quintet to this day.
When Steve’s schedule permits, he can be found working with Dave Liebman, Tal Farlow, Lou Levy, Lee Konitz and other jazz greats.