Jazz as a musical genre developed in New Orleans during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With its roots in blues and ragtime, early players like Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong began to express themselves using each note of their instruments, and jazz was the result. Since then we’ve seen many developments, and just as rivers tend to fork and branch out in all directions, so too has jazz as a genre. We’ve seen more legends come about over the years, Jaco Pastorius, John McLaughlin, and Chick Corea just to name a few, and the genre has continued to thrive into our present day.

Jazz in Westminster, MD

Sometimes there’s nothing more special than sitting down and listening to some old classics, (A Love Supreme by John Coltrane, Time Out by Dave Brubeck, Indigos by Duke Ellington, etc.) but what may truly be jazz’s greatest aspect is the fact that it can be played by anyone. Jazz allows for any player or musician to add their own personal flavor and to express their own personality. There will always be a place for the legends, but you can find legendary and unique performances everywhere jazz is played, even right here in Carroll County.

Who Are the Leister Quartet?

Anyone who is tuned in to the Westminster and Carroll County jazz scene knows all about the Leister Quartet and its leader Monte Leister. They’ve been playing in the area for years now, and even released a live CD last November, (we covered its release and you can read about that here).

Leister Quartet at Carroll Arts Center
Image taken at the first night of the Jazz Series “A Tribute to Chet Baker – Featuring Mark Kelly & The Leister Quartet” on September 18, 2019.

The group plays a bit of an older, very swing like, style of jazz and they give off a very rich and warm tone. Perhaps this warmness comes from the close bond between the players, and of course they have a close bond, they’re father and sons.

Monte Leister

Monte, father to Miles and Zion, is the driving force of the band. He supplies his jazz guitar sound with help from his trusty Gretsch and also performs all vocals for the band.

Monte Leister of the Leister Quartet

Miles Leister

Miles Leister Upright Bass

Miles provides the foundation of the band with his bass playing.

He typically plays an upright bass, which he uses to lay down some seriously tight bass lines.

What’s most surprising about Miles?

He’s only 17.

Even though he’s young, I’d wager he would be able to hang with players twice his age.

And he’s only going to get better with more time and experience under his belt.


Zion Leister

Seated in the right of this picture is Zion Leister, the youngest member of the group. Zion is only 14 years old, and much like with Miles, you wouldn’t expect someone so young to be able to play at such a professional level. But he does.

Zion Leister of the Leister Quartet

The Leister Quartet has been playing shows in the area for a couple of years now, but it’s what’s on the horizon that’s the most exciting.

Jazz Series at the Carroll Arts Center

Over the next six months, the Carroll Arts Center will be hosting a Jazz Series with the Leister Quartet, as well as other featured musicians.

Carroll Arts Center Jazz Series

The first show of the series has already passed, but there are still six more nights of music left. Here’s the schedule:

October 16, 2019 – A Trio of Trombones – Featuring Glenn Patterson, Brenna Patterson, David Motter, and the Leister Quartet

November 20, 2019 – Coming Home – Featuring Bryan Beninghove and the Leister Quartet

January 15, 2020 – A Tribute to Miles Davis – Featuring Nick Reider and the Leister Quartet

February 19, 2020 – Compositions of Miles and Monte Leister – Featuring the Leister Quartet

March 18, 2020 – The Leister Quartet w/ Jay Fenner

April 15, 2020 – The Piano Speaks – Featuring Justin Taylor and the Leister Quartet

I recently sat down with Monte, as well as Director of Programs for the Carroll Arts Center Andrew Woodard, to discuss the Jazz Series.

Monte and Andrew
Left (Andrew Woodard – Director of Programs for the Carroll Arts Center). Right (Monte Leister – Leader of the Leister Quartet).

Q: Why did the Carroll Arts Center decide to host the Jazz series?

Andrew Woodard: So Monte, approached us with a brilliant idea to do this, and we thought about it for a while, and the more we thought about it the more it seemed like something worth doing. We want to encourage jazz music. We want to support local musicians. We want to build partnerships and work with other community organizations. This year we sort of revamped our whole season, as far as what we’re programming in the theatre space, and I think the ability to do this Jazz Series is really going to be able to help us with a lot of our goals.

Q: Why did you choose these people (the featured artists) to play with? Who are these people?

Monte Leister: First of all, it was kind of a thrill and very exciting to be able to pick seven people, or have seven concerts where I get to choose the guests I want to play with. Some of them are people that I have not worked with before, and some of them I’ve worked with extensively.

ML: One of them, Dave Motter, was my trombone teacher. I was in middle school and he will be a part of the Trio of Trombones concert. The other trombonist is a childhood friend. We grew up together, he was a trombone player, he did not trade it in for string instruments like I did (laughs). He continues to play the trombone, and his daughter will be playing (at the Trio of Trombones Concert) as well. She’s a high school senior, and if you know anything about me you know that I gig with my kids and I love that. I love sharing music with future generations, so the fact that his daughter is able to be a part of the three trombones event is really exciting to me.

ML: Bryan Beninghove is a local guy, grew up here. We played together very briefly in a band in the early ’90s when I was in college and he was in high school. He relocated to Jersey City, he –

Q: Did you guys have a band name?

ML: (Chuckling) I’m sure that we did, I don’t recall what that was, but he relocated to Jersey City and he’s changing the world of jazz. He started the Jersey City Jazz Festival and the River View Jazz Festival. He’s running events all the time, he plays in New York a lot, and I’m just excited that he’s willing to come home and play with us. It’s going on 30 years since we played together and I’m just really excited that we’re in touch and to get back together and play with him, and my kids will be the same ages we were when we last played together.

ML: The third one I wanna hit on is Jay Fenner. He is our standard saxophone player. When I get a gig and I need a horn player he’s the first guy I call. I love playing with him. I met him through church and he was a student that came through the jazz ensembles that I run, and he is just a phenomenal sax player. He’s in his third year of college at James Madison University and one of the things I wanna do is put people on the map, and I’m happy and I’m sad that he’s getting on the map because he’s not able to work with us a lot anymore, because he’s working with other people and playing other things, which is great, but I’m really excited that he’s going to be here and be a part of the Jazz Series. He’ll be on a couple shows as well as being a feature.

Q: The playbill mentions that 40% of ticket sales will be benefiting local nonprofits. Which nonprofits are being benefitted?

AW: We just gave to Carroll County Food Sunday, that was the September show. I think the October show coming up is for the Carroll Community Foundation, and I think after that we go to the Boys and Girls club, and then we skip December so then the January show is Access Carroll. Next in February is Human Services Programs of Carroll County, and March is Habitat for Humanity, our local branch, and the April show, which ends the series this year, will be the Youth Services Bureau.

Q: On January 19th, you will be performing a tribute to Miles Davis. Why did you choose him over any other legend?

ML: Because Nick Reider, who is the trumpet player who is featured on that concert. He put together a Miles Davis concert where, Miles Davis’ most famous record is called Kind of Blue, and I believe Nick and his band played that album note for note as closely as they could. It was several years in the making, but that’s not what we will be doing. But he is a huge Miles Davis fan, and so I’m trying to tailor the concerts to the performer where it makes sense. I’m excited to play with Nick, he’s my daughter’s trumpet teacher as well as a good friend. And he plays in like five bands, so you’ll hear the name Nick Reider a lot.

A copy of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. Editorial Credit: Shutterstock.com

Q: He’s (Nick Reider) a trumpet player?

ML: Yes. I thought about doing Miles Davis with bassoon, but it made more sense with trumpet.

AW: I love that we’re getting all the trumpet players. The September show was another trumpet tribute. That was Chet Baker, another one of the trumpet greats. I’m a trumpet player so this is –

ML: I did not know this!

AW: See! We learn something new about each other every day (chuckling).

ML: Alright well, maybe you’ll have to sit in on a concert (smiling).

AW: You’re better off with your guests, haha!

Q: It’s been almost a year since I last sat down with you Monte. How has the Leister Quartet changed or grown since then?

ML: Well, I think we’ve all gotten better. Honestly, sometimes I feel like I’m keeping up, my kids are so good. My daughter, Cordelia, has started to play with us a little more, which is nice.

Q: How old is she and what does she play?

ML: She is 12 years old, and she plays the trumpet.

Q: Is there anything else on the horizon for the Carroll Arts Center that you’re really excited about?

AW: This whole year, I kinda alluded to this earlier, we’ve put out a whole season of events. We’ve always had concerts, and dance activities, and plays, but this is the first time that we’ve ever packaged it as this full season. We have everything booked in advance, we have our season brochure, and we’re right around 50 subscribers to the season. It’s a flexible subscription package. We’re living in it right now, so I can’t say it’s coming up, except that we’re only about 10% of the way through the season, so there’s still plenty more out there and we’re still selling season passes, so that’s really exciting for us right now.

Q: Thank you guys so much for meeting with me!

ML: Thank you.

AW: Thank you.


Tickets for the Jazz Series are available now and will be available at the door on the night of each individual concert. Tickets are either $10 per show or $50 for all six remaining shows.

All concerts will be held at 7 pm at the Carroll Arts Center, located at 91 W. Main St. Westminster, MD 21157.