As I have shared before, Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest has been an important part of our jazz reach for many years. The lineup is always a blend of “straight ahead” and “smooth” jazz and many, many of the musicians who perform on our cruise programs also perform at Berks. The success of this festival is not prompted by the locale. Reading does not have beaches, mountains, lakes, or the allure of a big city.

But Reading does have John Ernesto and that makes up for all that other stuff. I almost said “all that jazz”, but the one thing that John and I do not joke about is our music. John has been involved in the festival in one way or another for more than 30 years, mainly as the Director. Its growth and stature are a tribute to John’s acute musical sense and his hard work in marketing and producing a first-class event.

John is one of those guys who you cannot remember when you met them first, but also, you cannot remember not knowing them. From the start, I was drawn to his kind and easy way, but the real relationship was forged through years and years of enjoying the music and telling war stories about dealing with agents and managers.

We also share the same philosophy when it comes to presenting the music. Make sure that the lineup is great. The sound and seating must be perfect. The shows are all about the guests, not the musicians. Be visible just enough to remind the guests that someone is in charge, but do not hijack the event. Guests are there to enjoy the music… not listen to you or anyone in your organization talk about how much work it is to produce these shows. Nor should they.

We both find joy, satisfaction and all the appreciation we need by watching the happy faces of our guests as they enjoy the music, the camaraderie, and the experience. You can always find John at the back of each of his events taking it all in, but with the watchful eye of someone who knows that they are the only one in the room making sure that everything is going well. No detail too small and definitely no challenge to burdensome. We have both endured bad weather, difficult performers, rowdy crowds, and the Mega Daddy of All Problems, COVID – 19. John’s stewardship from 2020 to the present is a textbook primer in how to steer a non-profit through a crisis.

John’s accomplishments were not achieved alone. He has built an amazing organization, mainly volunteers, over the years and they reflect his commitment and passion to the event. His #1 aide-de-camp is not simply a volunteer for the festival, but a willing volunteer in his life. His wife, Suzie, has been by his side throughout the entire journey and I can tell you by firsthand account, that she knows how to keep John balanced and focused and is able to make him feel that her idea was actually his as well as anyone I know.

They are dedicated to their families and nothing, not even a cruise or an event, has stopped them from being on the job for children and grandchildren. When not working on the festival, John is the “UBER” for his entire family. Now that is one Super UBER.

The festival begins on April 5 and runs until April 14, 2024. Jazz Cruises’ Night, featuring Marcus Miller & Jonathan Butler, is one of the opening acts of the festival on April 5. This great show will be held at Scottish Rite Cathedral at 6 pm ET. We urge you to join us for the event and share in our celebration of John Ernesto. You see, this will be John’s farewell festival. A full retirement starts on April 15!

Just as the Newport Jazz Festival has continued without George Wein and the Monterey Jazz Festival continues without Tim Jackson, Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest will go on for many years. Yes, they will all continue but they will be different without their well-known leaders. Some things will be better. Some things not so much. For me, in each instance, I will continue to miss the leaders I have worked with for many years. None will I will miss more than my great friend, John Ernesto.

By Michael Lazaroff, Executive Director of The Jazz Cruise, The Smooth Jazz Cruise, Chris Botti at Sea, The McDonald & LaBelle Cruise and Journey of Jazz. Feel free to express your views or pose questions to him at [email protected].


A vocalist who has performed on numerous Jazz Cruises sailings, most recently on The Jazz Cruise ‘24, Cyrille Aimee has just released a new album, À Fleur de Peau that presents Cyrille for the first time in her own words, with her own original compositions and arrangements, developed in close collaboration with co-producer, multi-instrumentalist/producer Jake Sherman. Drawing on her Dominican heritage, with its combination of African dance rhythms and Spanish folksongs, this new album embraces the directness of contemporary pop structure, with lyrics that are inspired by her recent experiences in a new setting. “I’ve been writing forever, but this album is my real birth as a songwriter,” Cyrille explains. “Then when the pandemic hit, I moved to some land I had bought in Costa Rica and—to my own amazement—I designed and built a house in the jungle all by myself. It was my creative outlet, and my inspiration.” At the heart of each recording is a live performance by Cyrille, accompanying herself with voice and guitar or baritone ukulele: then together they would add layers of arrangement, using Cyrille’s trademark scat vocal improvisations to suggest horn lines, percussion parts and counter melodies which Sherman would re-create on his array of vintage instruments.


The cruise sails in just under one month and there are fewer than 20 staterooms, all Inside staterooms, remaining.

The Jazz Cruises Pop Up sale for all Inside Staterooms ends Monday March 18, 2024. Your Cruise Fare will be only $875/person(*)! Call the office and tell them that you want the Pop Up price! If you complete your reservation online, POPUP will be your promo code.

(*) The POPUP offer is for new reservations only and may not be combined with any other offer or discounts. Pricing is per person based on double occupancy and does not include pass through charges.


The Jazz Cruise ’25
Celebrating its 25th Anniversary

The Jazz Cruise ’25 is 87% reserved and is currently in “Open Booking,” where anyone may reserve any available stateroom. You may view current stateroom availability and start your reservation on the website now.

The Smooth Jazz Cruise ‘25.1 & ‘25.2
Starting its 3rd Decade

With both sailings being fully reserved, guests wishing to sail on a ’25 sailing of The Smooth Jazz Cruise should JOIN WAITLIST now. Cancellations will be filled exclusively from the WAITLIST.

Botti at Sea II
Every Night is a Night on the Town

Botti at Sea II is in the Open Booking stage and is over 60% reserved. Anyone may reserve any available stateroom either by calling the office during regular business hours or doing so online. It was this time last year that there was a “run” on staterooms, so act now! 

Journey of Jazz ’25
Jazz Life at Sea & On Land 

Jazz Cruises’ newest program, Journey of Jazz ’25, hosted by Marcus Miller & Gregory Porter, has completed the Pre-Sale process and began Open Booking on April 30, 2024. Like a race care, this program as gone from 0 – 60(%) sold in the blink of an eye. 


Pilar – Forida
Shirley & Timothy – Texas

Guests on the ’24 jazz cruises received The Weekender mug, which we hope you will use with your Saturday morning coffee while you read the latest edition. Please share a picture of yourself & your mug with us so that we can include it for the 100,000+ folks who receive The Weekender each Saturday.

Tag us @thejazzcruise @bottiatsea @thesmoothjazzcruise #jazzcruises and #theweekender. Email your photo to [email protected].

To top