The COTA Cats have long been a very important part of COTA. In 1981, as COTA was entering its fourth year, Phil Woods sent out a letter to twenty-six area band directors in hopes of starting an all-star jazz ensemble of young musicians to play at the festival. Pat Dorian, a young band director, was the only one to respond and from there the COTA Cats were born becoming one of the most eagerly awaited performances of each year’s festival by parents and the community alike.

Students who are selected to be a part of the COTA Cats ensemble receive 30 plus hours of free instruction, are able to play alongside professional musicians, and integrate into the truly unique jazz community. Professionals, many who are former COTA cats themselves, give their time and energy to helping the COTA Cats achieve their full performing potential.  A majority of the music performed by the band is commissioned by the Celebration of the Arts, and features compositions by well-known composers/arrangers, COTA Cat alumni, and current COTA Cats.

The 2017 COTA Cats will now be under the direction of Dr. Matt Vashlishan. Vashlishan is an accomplished saxophonist, composer, and director.  For an exciting addition to this years COTA Cat program, the students will see the Water Gap Jazz Orchestra, a professional big band play at the historic Deer Head Inn under the direction of Matt Vashlishan.


Watch WVIA’s video special on the COTA Cats here.