Tampa Bay Area's Top Musical Newcomers Step into Spotlight at Verizon Music Festival

Tampa, Fla. -- Tampa Bay area residents and visitors will have a chance to discover new talent and experience an eclectic mix of musical artists at the Verizon Music Festival.

The festival, which will take place at a variety of venues in the Tampa Bay area from Oct. 24 - Oct. 27, will provide up-and-coming artists with a platform to showcase their talent.

Honky-tonk performer Ronnie Elliott and the Michael Ross Quartet kick off the festival Oct. 24 at Carol Morsani Hall in the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. The Michael Ross Quartet also will perform at Chuck Berry's "75th Birthday Bash" on Oct. 25 at Ruth Eckard Hall in Clearwater.

The festival will continue with diverse artists including the Damon Fowler Group, performing at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa on Oct. 25 and Coachman Park on Oct. 27, and the all-female group Halcyon performing at Ruth Eckard Hall on Oct. 27 at Coachman Park.

From jazz to rock, the Verizon Music Festival's "emerging talent" artists will have something for everyone. The four acts include:

  • Ronny Elliott plays a bold brand of honky-tonk soul that's filled with tall tales and autobiographical stories.

  • The Michael Ross Quartet, composed of bassist Michael Ross, saxophonist David Pate, guitarist Larue Nickelson and drummer Tom Carabasi, is one of Tampa's leading modern jazz combos.

  • The Damon Fowler Group, which has quickly become the band to see live on the local and statewide scene, has worked with such artists as Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Greg Allman and others.

  • Tampa's own Halcyon has opened for such artists as Crosby, Stills and Nash; Joan Baez and Joan Osborne. Comprised of Stephanie Callahan and Deb Hunseder, Halcyon plays harmony driven music.

The emerging-talent artists were chosen by a panel of Tampa Bay's music professionals, including: entertainment critic, producer and musician Philip Booth; WMNF-FM program director Randy Wynne; the head of the University of South Florida's Jazz department Chuck Owen; Jazz and R&B performer Belinda Womack; Skipper's Smokehouse talent agent Tom White; Arbors Records President Mathew Domber; and the assistant to the president of Arbors Records Claudia Florczyk.

"We are very proud to feature up-and-coming artists during the Verizon Music Festival," said George Wein, CEO of Festival Productions, Inc. "It's tremendously important for us to continue to nurture and encourage new talent and to provide an audience for their music whenever possible."

The Verizon Music Festival is a comprehensive, four-day celebration of music, which includes premiere concerts with headline acts at venues such as the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Ruth Eckard Hall and The Coliseum.

Tickets for paid shows are available at venue box offices (a complete festival schedule follows) and at all Ticketmaster outlets. For updated festival information go to www.festivalproductions.net or www.verizon.com/musicfestival.

For more than 45 years, George Wein and Festival Productions Inc., have been the preeminent producers of music festivals and entertainment properties in the world, including the famed Newport Jazz Festival, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the JVC Jazz Festivals Worldwide, among others. Throughout the years, FPI has built a storied reputation as the foremost experts in festival productions and Wein has personally worked with venerable jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis.

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 125 million access line equivalents and more than 28 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune 10 company with about 260,000 employees and more than $65 billion in annual revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.

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Verizon Music Festival schedule for Tampa Bay area

Wednesday, Oct. 24

Buckwheat Zydeco

Irma Thomas

Ronny Elliott

Michael Ross Quartet

Carol Morsani Hall, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, 7:30 p.m.

Free ticketed event, open to the public (Limit four tickets per person)

Thursday, Oct. 25

Chuck Berry's "75th Birthday Bash"
With Special Guest: Little Richard

Michael Ross Quartet on the outdoor stage

Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 8 p.m.

"Jazz The Way You Like It: An Evening of Swing & Dance"

George Wein and the Newport All-Stars with Ken Peplowski, Warren Vaché, Lew Tabackin & Howard Alden

Plus Johnny Varro Swing 7

The Coliseum, St. Petersburg, 7 p.m.

Papa Grows Funk with David Russell Batiste, Jr., John Gros, June Yamagishi, Jason Mingledorff and Marc Pero

Damon Fowler Group

Skipper's Smokehouse, Tampa, 8 p.m.

Friday, Oct 26


Daniel Lee Martin

Halcyon performing on an outdoor stage

Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 27

Arturo Sandoval

Femi Kuti & Positive Force

Claudia Acuña

Larry Coryell & the Count's Jam Band with Steve Marcus, Jeff Berlin & Danny Gottlieb

Damon Fowler Group


Coachman Park, Clearwater 1 p.m.

Free, open to the public

Merl Saunders with King Johnson

Ronny Elliott

Skipper's Smokehouse, Tampa, 8 p.m.