Temple’s Rite of Swing Café Hosts Jazz Night with Strings Ensemble

The Rite of Swing Jazz Café has routinely stars students, faculty and special guests, weekly.

The Rite of Swing Jazz Cafes, which features emerging musicians, are held at the Temple Performing Arts Center. | FERNANDO GAXIOLA / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Nestled in the lobby of Temple University Performing Arts Center is The Rite of Swing Jazz Café. 

Students performed Rockwell Valentine’s Day: Rockwell Valentine with Strings, a special Valentine’s Day set in the café on Feb. 15. The show featured Rockwell Valentine on trumpet, Josh Klamka on piano, Eli Pace on bass, Greg Masters on drums, Abigail Dickson and Alex Covelli on violin, Jasmine Harris on viola and Marcela Reina on cello. 

The nearly decade-old weekly Rite of Swing Jazz Café serves as a gathering place for on-campus jazz performances in an intimate setting. Boyer College of Music and Dance students, faculty, community members and special guests showcase their talents from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Thursdays during the Fall and Spring semesters.

“For the students, it’s a really great opportunity for them to host a show and it’s typically their first time doing so,” said Madeline Bell, Boyer’s assistant director of marketing and communications. 

The lobby is transformed into an intimate Jazz café for their events, featuring a food and drink bar and a stage at the opposite side of the room. Those looking to sit and immerse themselves in the music can sit closer to the musicians, while casual event goers hang back toward the bar.

Greg Masters, a junior jazz studies performance major, played the drums for Valentine’s band, but had already performed at the Jazz Café before and has other café performances scheduled for the remainder of the semester. 

Masters’ favorite song from the Feb. 15 set was the “Andromeda,” originally composed by Joe Block, a New York City-based composer.

“Sometimes the music is moving in a bad way and other times it’s moving in a good way, but [Andromeda] was definitely a moment that I felt super moved by,” Masters said.

The Rockwell Valentine’s Day group met a couple times to rehearse before performing the Feb. 15 set. Alexander Covelli, a violinist and music performance graduate student, had worked with some of the other string players before the performance.


In 2022, The Philadelphia Inquirer named the Rite of Swing Jazz Café as one of the city’s top 12 spots for live jazz.

Alex Hughes, the sound engineer for The Rite of Swing Jazz Café, recommends the event to everyone, regardless of if they’re a jazz fan or not, because of the quality of the music that’s being played each week.

“Whenever we get people from outside of the Temple or Boyer atmosphere, a lot of people come up and they’re like, ‘This is the most incredible music I’ve heard in a while and stereotypically, I don’t even like jazz, but this is awesome,’” said Hughes, a senior music technology major.

Nearly 120 people attended the Feb. 15 performance; a large crowd turnout has become routine for The Rite of Swing Jazz Café, said David P. Brown, assistant dean for the Center for the Performing and Cinematic Arts. The café’s weekly events attract a community of regular attendees and new faces alike. 

The 30 performances every year are planned a year in advance and are determined by Terell Stafford, director of jazz studies and artistic director for The Rite of Swing Jazz Café. Brown then contacts the headliners to work out the logistics for their performances. 

Although many of the performances are well attended, there are no future plans to change the location of The Rite of Swing Jazz Café, even when it’s packed to the brim. Hosting in the lobby allows the event to be accessible to anyone as they’re able to walk right in, Brown said.

“The performers and the headliners are usually a combination of students here at the college, some alumni, local pros and we have groups that come down from New York,” Brown said. 

Video by Kajsa Morse

Students performing in the event don’t typically get academic credit, but some receive class points or credit for attending the event as a spectator, said Erika Hollister, Boyer’s administration and recital operations coordinator. 

Award-winning jazz trumpeter and composer Danny Jonokuchi visited The Rite of Swing Jazz Café last October to promote his new album “Voices.” Which more than 100 people; the event always remains free for everyone regardless of the high-profile nature of some guest artists. 

“Overall, it was a really cool and fun experience at the end of the day to do this because as classical musicians, we don’t really get to perform jazz a lot, but every once in a while there is like a crossover thing that we can do like this,” Covelli said.

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