Ian DennyThe COTA program has by far been the most influential in my growth as a musician. Especially the COTA Cats. They were the first honors group I was ever part of and I can't imagine a better group of young musicians to enjoy the world of jazz with. Before the Cats, I was into jazz but not that extensively. The COTA Cats exposed me to my own area, since it is heavy with jazz history and still is home to many well-known jazzers like Phil Woods, Sherrie Maricle, and Rick Chamberlain! Being a COTA Cat taught me the meaning of "giving back." Not every foundation is thanked for the work they do, but our directors, Mr. Rauh, Ms. Clagg, Mr. Fadden, and Mr. Curchoe, made sure that we showed how much the COTA program meant to us. Even before the actual concert, it was amazing hearing that we were expected to clean the stage. Not as a punishment or anything, but because it was tradition to do so. The Cats taught me that it's a musician's responsibility to not only play their best, but to give back to the audience and community. And I definitely hope and plan on giving back to the COTA Cats.

Ilijah DennyFor me, being a COTA Cat has meant more than being chosen to be in this group and playing high level music. Although that is a part of it, it has been like an extended family outside of my school's own music program. In the three years that I have been a part of the COT A Cats, I have continually met new and interesting people, both clinicians and Cats. Some of my closest friends have come out of being a member of this organization, and I know that I will never forget that. Being a Cat has also been another reminder in of itself to excel and keep working on my musicianship. I always remember the quote "A good player practices until they get it right, and a great player practices until they can't get it wrong." That alone keeps me going some days, and I realize that it was groups like COTA that have helped to foster my work ethic and make me into the young man that I am today.

To the COTA Board,
Thank you for the opportunity to play at the COTA Festival! It was a great experience. It was very helpful to get to work with all of the clinicians. i learned a lot this year in the COTA Cats, but most importantly I got some experience playing in a big band setting, a skill I have been lacking. I'd also like to thank Phil Woods for playing with the COTA Cats, it was an honor to play beside him. The Festival was a great experience (and has been for two years now), and I hope to be a part of it for my remaining two years of high school.
With thanks,
Dave Lante IV (9/16/04)
I thought that being in the COTA Cats was an awesome experience and I would like to do it again next year. I learned many things from the various instructors and former COTA Cats that walked through every rehearsal. I have found it easier to read music since my experience with COTA. I would like to sincerely thank the directors and those various instructors and former COTA Cat members, and the Board. I thank you for letting me have the honor of being in the COTA Cats. It's been a pleasure. I hope to see you next year.
Chad Feakins (9/14/06)
What being a COTA meant to me..
Being a COTA Cat was undoubtedly the most influential contribution to my musical career. During my time with the COTA Cats, I gained a great amount of experience that helped me not only with lead playing, but with performance skills overall. I met many great people, teachers, and musicians and made friends that I know I'll keep for the rest of my life. Not many people can say they recieved help from Dave Liebman, Phil Woods, Ken Brader, Eric Doney, Jim Daniels, or any other giant of the music industry. Working with Mr. Glaser, Mr. Rauh, and Mr. Fadden was an amazing experience. Their patience, knowledge, and guidance is unmatched. I'm extremely grateful for all the help I recieved and I'm very thankful for my two years with the COTA Cats.
Participating in the COTA Cats was one of my most enriching experiences in my early musical career. I met numerous people with different lifestyles and backgrounds, but all unified in the appreciation of jazz. Each individual was extremely talented, which led to such an outstanding result. All three of the directors were very helpful and made each rehearsal unique. They displayed such a love for what they were doing, and this truly satisfied my decision to study music education in college.

The input from the clinicians taught me a lot as well. Different techniques of approaching the music were introduced to me. Many different aspects of my "musical horizons" were broadened. It was also a great joy to play with Phil Woods and Rick Chamberlain. Both of these men are very talented, and it was a pleasure for me to meet Phil Woods for the first time.

I almost wish that my time with the COTA Cats had lasted longer. The comradery between each of the musicians was profound. The talents shared have taught me so much. On the day of the concert I was awestruck by our performance. It was the best that we had ever played, and it gave me chills. Even more thrilling was the fact that we were playing on the exact same stage as countless other professional jazz musicians. I truly enjoyed this experience, and I thank you wholeheartedly.

My experience in COTA was one of the best of my life. I was granted a wonderful opportunity in which I could do what I love, play Jazz. I also got to experience what it was like to play with other talented musicians, an experience that I had never really had prior to COTA. I also got the opportunity to receive free lessons from some of the greatest musicians that have ever lived. From these lessons, I learned so much about music, and playing. From Mr. Brader alone, I learned so much about become a better "section player," and becoming a better leader, all at the same time. From the directors, especially Mr. Glaser, I learned new methods of warming up, and new techniques to improve my sight-reading skills. One of my favorite parts of COTA is the chance it gave me to make new friends. I met a least five new friends at COTA, people who I could really relate to and have fun with.

I'm so happy that I had the chance to participate in the "COTA Cats," and I'm sad that it is over.

I thank all those that made this wonderful experience possible. I'll never forget the lessons that I've learned and the fun that I had, and I hope that some day, I'll become a great musician and be able to come back and participate in the COTA Cats as a teacher.

  The letter:
In 1981, the 4th year of the COTA festival, Pat Dorian responded to Phil Woods' letter about establishing a jazz band made up of young musicians. Of twenty-six high school band directors queried, he was the only one to do so; and the COTA Cats were born. A big band comprised of local high school students, the Cats came together through the continued efforts of Dorian and Woods and became a major feature of each festival.

Nearly 1,000 have by now gone through the COTA experience – learning to swing in COTA Cats or to improvise at CampJazz, which are life-skills never forgotten and ever useful in the real world. Hundreds of COTAlums are musicians and teachers regenerating this sharing process – giving it back.

The 2016 COTA festival proudly presented the 35th edition of the COTA Cats directed by accomplished area music educators (and some COTAlums) Lance Rauh, Tom Fadden, and Katye Clogg. Each COTA Cat receives thirty-plus hours of free instruction and interaction with professional musicians and composers. 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.



First Edition of the COTACats with "ringers" Rick Chamberlain and Jim Daniels in foreground 1981 
Photo: Walter Bredel

Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania 18327


May 13, 1981

Dear _____________________,

This year will be the Fourth Annual Celebration Of The Arts and we would like to enlist your help in forming a Jazz band of the outstanding young musicians in the area. The band would meet for rehearsal after Labor Day weekend and perform at the Festival the following Saturday and Sunday, September 12 and 13.

I, along with other professionals in the area, will rehearse the band. We also hope to commision new works for this young ensemble and debut them at the Festival. We urgently need your help in this matter. Could you please post the enclosed sign in a conspicuous place and pass the word to interested young musicians?

Thank you.


Phil Woods




Some of my best memories of my life so far have come from the COTA festival and being a COTA Cat. Being in the ensemble in such close proximity with clinicians brought in by the staff such as Phil Woods, David Liebman, and Bob Dorough has really pushed me to work harder in music. Just recently I went on vacation to the Jersey Shore and Ken Brader was playing one night there and I coincidentally went to the small park that he was playing at, and I felt like I could approach him and talk to him, but only because of my experience with the COTA Cats. I'll never forget the times that I spent back stage with all of the world class musicians at the festival, and the time that I spent on the side of the stage sitting on the grass with my friends while those same great musicians were playing, mezmerizing us all with their ability. The COTA Cats and the COTA Festival really have changed my life, enriching it significantly, and I thank the directors for allowing me to participate in such a great ensemble for these past four years.

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