METROWEST — Throughout his career, saxophonist Will Donato has performed alongside several legendary musicians, including Al McKay (Earth, Wind and Fire), Bruce Conte (Tower of Power) and Steve Reid (The Rippingtons).
This Sunday, he’ll take the stage as the headliner for the 2015 MetroWest Smooth JazzFest. The free festival takes place from 4 to 8 p.m. May 3, at MetroWest Golf Club, 2100 S. Hiawassee Road, Orlando.
A resident of Palm Springs, California, Donato’s Metro- West performance is his only Florida appearance during a packed spring and summer that includes dates in New York, New Mexico, Connecticut and Colorado.
Joining Donato on the bill for this year’s festival is local jazz guitarist Robert Harris, whose list of accomplishments includes performances at many notable Florida festivals, including the Miami Jazz Festival, Daytona Jazz Festival, Lake Mary Jazz Festival, Winter Park Art Festival, The St. Petersburg Pier Concert Series and Friday Fest at the Van Wezel in Sarasota.
A native of Detroit, Harris cut his musical teeth on artists such as George Benson, Stevie Wonder, Hall and Oates. He moved to Florida after spending time on the West Coast in Seattle and Los Angeles.
MetroWest Master Association Community Manager Julie Sanchez, said she is excited to see Harris join JazzFest this year.
“We are introducing local talent — we wanted to showcase someone close to the community,” she said. “Robert is right in our backyard.”
In addition to performances by Donato and local jazz guitarist Robert Harris, guests will be able to enjoy food selections from local restaurants and peruse more than 40 booths featuring local vendors. Beer, wine and liquor will be available.
MetroWest Master Association leaders hope this year’s JazzFest will continue their mission of connecting the community following the residents’ buyout of developer Carl Shakarian late last year. In addition to the music, the association will introduce its mobile app.
The event will benefit the Edgewood Children’s Ranch. In addition to the festival, the association has launched a Community Charity Challenge to raise money and collect goods for the ranch.
Finally, winners of the association’s Student Art Contest will be recognized at the festival. Earlier this year, the association challenged local students to create art that completes the thought, “Music makes me feel …”
“Our partnership with the MetroWest schools has been a focus for many years,” Sanchez said. “MetroWest has given back to MetroWest Elementary annually in the amount of $10,000 (now $5,000 donated to them at each event — JazzFest and WinterFest). When the annual events started, we began the effort of including schools (faculty, students and their families) to get involved and start connecting with one another. We created the art contest as one way to bring us together as a community to celebrate the arts. You can see from the artwork itself that kids are able to express themselves through their drawings. … It’s quite fascinating.”