On Saturday afternoon, some of Montgomery County's high school jazz bands will parade through the streets and neighborhoods of Silver Spring to start off the city's first jazz festival.

"We are starting a new tradition in Silver Spring," said Susan Hoffmann, manager of marketing and special events at the Silver Spring Regional Services Center. "It's another new way to celebrate Silver Spring's new style and panache. We want everyone to come participate and enjoy it."

The free festival, which will be at Silver Plaza on Ellsworth Drive between Georgia Avenue and Fenton Street, takes place from 4 to 10 p.m. and will be headlined by the Marcus Johnson Project. It will honor longtime Silver Spring resident Keter Betts, a bass player who worked with Ella Fitzgerald for more than 24 years and was a 2003 recipient of the Living Legacy Jazz Award.

"This is a community that takes care of each other," said Johnson, a pianist and one of the organizers and sponsors of the festival. "It's an honor to be involved and see an idea from inception to realization."

At 3 p.m., jazz bands from Blair, Einstein and Blake high schools will begin a nearly one-hour parade through several neighborhoods, playing music on flatbed trucks. At 4 p.m., they will participate in a battle of the bands, with the winner taking home a trophy until next year's festival.

"It is a nice way to kick off the jazz festival, but also the jazz season that we have here at the high schools," said Brian Damron, Blake's instrumental music director. "It's great for the students to experience what we consider an American tradition."

At 5 p.m., there will be a modern traditional jazz performance by Project Natale. Harmonica master Frederic Yonnet will take the stage at 6:20 p.m.

At 7:15 p.m., Betts and his band will perform jazz and blues selections.

"I want people to think about the sound of the music," said Betts, 76. "As you walk down this road of life it is important that you reach out and touch people. It is music for people. I want to make them happy."

Other performances include jazz vocalist Alyson Williams at 8:10 p.m. and contemporary and modern jazz with the Marcus Johnson Project and Nick Colionne at 8:40 p.m.

"God put me in a position where I'm performing with someone of Keter Betts's stature. He's just a great man," Johnson said. "To have the opportunity to share the stage with someone of his character and humility, it's just truly a blessing."

The festival concludes at 9:30 p.m. with the grand finale, in which all the musicians will jam together on a selection of jazz tunes.

For more information about the festival, call the Silver Spring Regional Center at 301-565-7300.

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