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Fri, Sep 22


Merrimans' Playhouse

The Michele Thomas Quintet

With an A-list cast of Chicago musicians for her much-anticipated third album release, The Assumption - she developed a coalescence of contemporary and straight-ahead jazz stitched with threads of soul.

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The Michele Thomas Quintet
The Michele Thomas Quintet

Time & Location

Sep 22, 2023, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM

Merrimans' Playhouse, 401 E Colfax Ave, Suite 135, South Bend, IN 46617, USA


About the Event

TICKETS are $10 General/$5 Student. End time is estimate.

Touring from Chicago, The Michele Thomas Quintet presents:

Michele Thomas - vocals 

Darren Scorza - drums 

Tim Fitzgerald - guitar 

Tom Vaitsas - piano 

Cory Biggerstaff – bass   





Jazz singer-songwriter, entrepreneur, and educator Michele Thomas is a suave innovator. The daughter of a preacher, she brings an irresistible gospel-soul warmth to jazz. With silken grace she eases in her formative gospel background and her love of R&B, soul, and neo-soul, into a musical language that shows a dedication and a passion for jazz, spanning all its defining eras. Michele’s restless creativity reflects jazz’s improvisatory spirit - for jazz, like life, is a journey and not a destination. With an A-list cast of Chicago musicians for her much-anticipated third album release, The Assumption - she developed a coalescence of contemporary and straight-ahead jazz stitched with threads of soul - in which she brings her original compositions along with captivating new jazz arrangements centered around a concept: “What is trust?”. 

“(She) has her own vocal sound, which is beautiful by the Grace of God.” — Yusef Lateef

Darren Scorza is a Chicago area drummer, percussionist, producer, recording engineer and educator. He holds a bachelor’s in music performance degree from Eastern Illinois University. Darren’s performance experience covers a wide range of styles. He’s performed with jazz legends such as Bobby Enriquez and Eddie Harris, spent time in Chicago theater shows, rock bands such as Cast Iron Skillet, and worship music at Ebenezer Lutheran Church. He is an active musician in the Chicago jazz scene often joining artists performing at renown jazz venues such as the Jazz Showcase, Winter’s Jazz Club, Pete Miller’s, Andy’s Jazz Club & the Chicago Jazz Festival. He also has many recording credits as both a drummer, recording/mixing engineer and producer. His drumming has been featured on recent recordings by Michele Thomas, Jeannie Tanner, Jeff Hedberg’s C11, Swing Forward, Hard Art Groop, John Bany, the Waystation, and the Metropolitan Jazz Octet. He also serves as drummer and music director for jazz vocalist (and wife) Michele Thomas.

Tim Fitzgerald is a Chicago based jazz guitarist, bandleader, educator, and author. Named “Wes Montgomery scholar and visionary” by DownBeat Magazine, he is also the recipient of Chicago's 2021 Individual Artist Program Grant, a grant provided by the Illinois Arts Council Agency and the National Endowment for the Arts. As a performer, Tim has played the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Woodstock Jazz Festival, the Gene Harris Jazz Festival, and the Chi-Town Jazz Festival, among others. Tim has played clubs across the country from New York City's Mezzrow to Memphis' Crosstown Arts to Chicago's Green Mill to Seattle's Tula's to Alice's in Homer, Alaska. Tim's record "Tim Fitzgerald's Full House" received Editor's Pick and 4.5 stars from DownBeat and is continuing to rise within the top 25 of the national jazz charts (JazzWeek). The record is a love letter to his hero, Wes Montgomery.

Pianist Tom Vaitsas started playing professionally in Chicago in 1992 while working on his B.A and Music Education degrees at NIU. Although school was a great experience, nothing compared to the knowledge and inspiration received from Chicago’s south side scene and musicians where he often got to be around and learn from legendary jazz saxophonist Von Freeman. 2000-2008 was a period of European tours with blues legends Lurie and Carrie Bell while also performing in Chicago in between trips. He has performed concerts with jazz greats Von Freeman and Dee Dee Bridgewater and continues to perform at concerts and clubs in and out of Chicago with various groups.

Bassist Cory Biggerstaff received a bachelor's degree in music education from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. After teaching at Lincoln public schools for a year, he moved to Chicago to continue his studies at DePaul University, where he earned a master's degree in jazz performance in 2004. He studied i.a. with bassist Kelly Sill, pianist Larry Novak and guitarist Bob Palmeri. First recordings were made between 2004 and 2007 with the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble and guest soloists Phil Woods and Jim McNeely. Since then, Biggerstaff has worked in the Chicago area with musicians such as Rob Denty, Ari Seder, Jeannie Tanner, AJ Kluth, Keri Johnsrud, Matt Shevitz, Jimmy Bennington, and Paul Hartsaw. In the field of jazz, according to Tom Lord, he was involved in eleven recording sessions between 2004 and 2018. He teaches privately at the Laughlin School and is a bass teacher at Harold Washington College.

Concerts and events made possible, in part, with support from the Wells Fargo Philanthropic Services Private Trust Foundations, which include grants from the Stanley A. and Flora P. Clark Memorial Community Trust Foundation (2020-2021; 2022-2023 seasons), the John, Anna, and Martha Jane Fields Memorial Trust Foundation (2021-2022; 2022-2023 seasons), and the Florence V. Carroll Charitable Trust (2021-2022; 2022-2023 season). Special concert event support provided by the Arts Midwest Grow, Invest, Gather (GIG) Fund grant (2022-2023 season). Activities are made possible in part by the Arts Organization Support (AOS), Indiana Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency (2023-2024 season).

Concerts and events made possible, in part, with support from The Esther and George Jaruga Charitable Foundation (2020-2023 seasons).

The Student and Home Grown Series concerts made possible, in part, with support from the ArtsEverywhere Grant from the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, and the Arts Project Support Grant and the Arts Recovery Grant through the Indiana Arts Commission.


  • General

    $10 Advanced or Door

    Sale ended
  • Student

    $5 Student/Discount

    Sale ended



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