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Medicine Hat JazzFest: A Celebration


Lyle Rebbeck is understandably proud of Medicine Hat JazzFest. It’s welcomed music legends and rising stars to southern Alberta for more than 30 years.

Rebbeck is a saxophonist and music teacher, and in 1991 he traveled to Edmonton for workshops and performances at the Yardbird Suite. After a workshop with PJ Perry, Rebbeck returned to Medicine Hat determined to bring more jazz to that city. He made it happen, offering concerts by Big Miller, Tommy Banks, PJ Perry, and other Canadian greats. In 1997, Medicine Hat JazzFest was launched, and Rebbeck was named Executive/Artistic director in 1998.

Now Rebbeck is stepping away from the festival, handing the reins to others who will plan future festivals. He has many fond memories, including standing in the wings while Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers played. One summer, a June 30 concert ran past midnight, so pianist Dave Restivo welcomed July 1 with a special version of “O Canada” that Rebbeck says left the audience in awe.

He considers some of these moments life-changing. “Sometimes you watch the audience leave a concert, and you know that people have experienced something deep and great. Lives can be changed by live music. Students and young people have made the decision to go into music because of moments like this.”

Lyle Rebbeck


Rebbeck is looking forward to this year’s festival, and to seeing the festival grow and change under new leadership. “It’s not an easy thing, to step aside from something you helped create, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for some time. The board and community are re-invigorated. They know how much this festival means, and they want it to continue.”

And, he says, “We have such a terrific festival planned. There are some connections to the past. PJ Perry and Al Muirhead are closing the festival. And there are new and exciting performers, too, like guitarist Pasquale Grasso and singer Laura Anglade.”


Rebbeck will be happy to have family and friends around him for his last festival as Executive/Artistic Director. “It’s a mixed feeling,” he says, “but mostly good. I like seeing the impact of this festival and how it’s been embraced. A jazz festival in a small western Canadian city is unlikely, but I believe in the power of music. It’s a celebration. We want to create something that goes beyond the music.”