The Fig Tree brings all that jazz to Dover’s First Friday

Dover-based jazz fusion band The Fig Tree plays the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover Friday night at 7:30.

DOVER — The historic Schwartz Center in downtown Dover will open its stage once again for a special holiday performance tonight.

The Downtown Dover Partnership is joining with Delaware State University to welcome community members to the theater on South State Street, where they can enjoy the First Friday show to kick off the holiday season.

The event will include performances of lVince Guaraldi jazz and “Charlie Brown Christmas” tunes performed by the regionally acclaimed Cartoon Christmas Trio.

The show will begin at 7:30 p.m., and guests will arrive at one of two assigned entrance times to encourage social distancing. During that time, the Dover-based band, The Fig Tree, will perform.

The local four-piece group will bring their lively jazz fusion style, playing holiday and year-round classics to the stage.

The Fig Tree is led by Luis Figueroa, a student at the University of Delaware. Other band members include brothers Elijah, Jeremiah, and Joshua August. Elijah and Jeremiah are students at Delaware State University and Josh attends University of Maryland in Baltimore County.

Mr. Figueroa said the individual experiences of each musician creates their unique jazz sound.

“We’re a jazz band, specifically jazz fusion,” Mr. Figueroa said. “Jeremiah was a classically trained pianist and I started in blues and slowly progressed to jazz and brought those ideas to Jeremiah which he soaked up like a sponge.”

“Growing up I always listened to the 91.7 Temple University radio station and was always excited when they played jazz, especially when a jazz guitarist was playing. The classic bebop jazz style coming from an Archtop always tickled my ear.”

Mr. Figueroa said jazz is the one style where you do not have to be restricted and can combine any style of music.

“That’s what we as a band are passionate about,” Mr. Figueroa said. “We all have our styles, but we combine them into one unique sound.”

The band has been together for about 10 years. Their passion for jazz is what brought everyone together.

“Jeremiah and I in 2008 met in William Henry Middle School in sixth grade where we rode the same bus, and both joined the school band,” Mr. Figueroa said.

“Jeremiah played the saxophone, and I played the clarinet. We quickly became friends and he invited me over for a jam session and I found out he played piano and he had two other brothers that were amazing musicians as well.”

Elijah is the bassist and Joshua is the drummer.

“The brothers were known as the August Worship Band and after the jam session I just had to play with them. So I joined their group and we became known as The August Worship Band and Friends,” Mr. Figueroa said.

He said the band played in several church and nursing home events and took a break in 2015 when Jeremiah and Mr. Figueroa graduated high school and began college. The band then reunited in 2018 with their current name The Fig Tree.

The band’s name was inspired by Mr. Figueroa’s last name, but over time it has evolved to include a more spiritual depth.

“The name mainly came from the fact that although the August brothers and I might come from different families and backgrounds, we all have one thing that unites us and brings us all together making us all part of the same family tree,” Mr. Figueroa said.

“We all strive to bear and produce good fruit in our music and our daily lives.”

The Cartoon Christmas Trio consisting of, from left, Jeff Knoettner, Rob Swanson and Jimmy Coleman, will play songs Vince Guaraldi and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at the Schwartz Center Friday night. (Submitted photo)

Since the show is part of the Downtown Dover Partnership’s monthly First Friday celebrations, the nonprofit organization is encouraging people to explore downtown where various musical artists will be playing in Dover shops.

The evening will begin at 4 p.m. with Mayor Robin Christiansen Christiansen and the DDP Design Committee dedicating the Backyard Birds mural at the rear of the Mitten and Winters CPAs (at the Minor Street parking lot). The dedication will be followed by a short walk to the second mural, a very colorful post card of historic Dover on the side of the Loockerman Street Family Dollar.

These murals were painted by community members under the direction of the DDP Design Committee and Wesley College art professor Joshua Nobiling. The mural project was funded by the Neighborhood Building Blocks Fund through the Division of Small Business.

RSVP is requested but not required at https://Tinyurl.com/DoverMurals.

The Fig Tree will open up for The Cartoon Christmas Trio, who will be celebrating 25 years as the original interpreter of classic holiday cartoon jazz.

The trio was started in 1995 by bassist Rob Swanson for the sole purpose of playing music from classic Christmas cartoons, especially the music of Vince Guaraldi, the composer of the “Peanuts” soundtracks. Pianist Jeff Knoettner and drummer Jimmy Coleman, round out the trio.

Since its inception, the trio has played hundreds of shows including live appearances on NBC, ABC, Fox, and NPR. The trio was also honored to perform in Philadelphia’s premiere music venue, The Kimmel Center.

Even though it’s The Fig Tree’s first time performing at the Schwartz Center, they’re up for the challenge.

“We’ve been playing in Downtown Dover every First Friday of the month,” Jeremiah said. “We’ve been a part of the First Friday experience. We’re not nervous at all. We practiced enough and I’m confident in our sound and our ability.”

The band said they usually play their own music, but will eventually branch off and do covers so they can be more relatable to their followers.

Mr. Figueroa said attendees can expect a lot of upbeat fun and relaxing music during their upcoming performance.

“Some songs you might recognize until you hear the melody,” Mr. Figueroa said. “We will be playing some Christmas tunes and some original songs.”

Elijah said tonight’s performance is a stepping stone for the band moving forward.

“People have really enjoyed our performances,” Elijah said. “I think that’s because we like to have fun with the audience and the energy we give is always reciprocated. Every individual is animated and it’s easy to feed off that energy.”

Jeremiah shared the same sentiment.

“We’re excited to expose the public to our unique sound and to have fun along with us,” Jeremiah said. “Down the line, we will be recording our first EP next year and we plan to play at more events in the area and out of state and continue to serve our community.”

To purchase tickets for the event visit https://tinyurl.com/DoverChristmasTrio.