Hilton Head jazz revivalist wins chamber's top award

dburley@islandpacket.comJanuary 11, 2014 

A local nightclub owner whose nonprofit organization strives to keep jazz music alive in the Lowcountry took home the top honor Saturday night at the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce's annual ball.

Bob Masteller, owner of the Jazz Corner on Hilton Head Island, was recognized for his community service and leadership with the Alice Glenn Doughtie Good Citizenship Award at the chamber's Great Gatsby-themed gala at the Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa.

"It's great to know that (my work) is appreciated by people," Masteller said after being serenaded to the ballroom stage by local singer Louise Spencer. "It's funny, I've always considered the Jazz Corner an opportunity to try to make other people look good."

Masteller's restaurant and club opened in 1999 and has attracted high-quality jazz musicians to the island, earning a place on Downbeat Magazine's list of the top-150 jazz rooms in the world.

"It's really a local treasure," Town of Hilton Head Island Mayor Drew Laughlin said. "I'm jealous because he gets to make it his livelihood."

Masteller's nonprofit Junior Jazz Foundation has cultivated young talent in the Lowcountry through music education programs in area schools.

"It is impossible to measure the impact that Bob and his wife, Lois, have across our community," Hilton Head Christian Academy music director James Barry said. "They have touched thousands through their nonprofit ... and giving hearts, raising up the next generation of jazz."

A musician himself, Masteller said he idolizes Louis Armstrong, has played with piano legend George Shearing and has performed for Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford.

He's also a 41-year island resident and was vice president of human resources for Sea Pines in the 1970s and '80s before going into business for himself.

"He was an integral player in the early days of Hilton Head Island," Tom Upshaw, chamber board chairman, said.

The Alice Glenn Doughtie Good Citizenship Award was first presented in 1971 and is dedicated to the memory of Doughtie, who died at 22 after a short life of service to others.


Organization of the Year

Town of Hilton Head 350/30 Celebration Committee and the Heritage Library: The organizations were recognized for celebrating the legacy of Hilton Head Island.

The 350/30 weeklong celebration this fall spotlighted two integral events in the formation of the Town of Hilton Head Island: the 350th anniversary of Capt. William Hilton's sighting of the island and the 30th anniversary of the town's incorporation.

The Heritage Library, which helped put on the celebration with the committee, also houses the records of the Hilton Head Island Historical Society.

Sue West Educator of the Year

Emalee Baker: A Red Cedar Elementary School kindergarten and first-grade teacher, Baker is a person who builds lasting relationships with her students and always seems to know what they need to succeed, according to her peers and pupils.

"When you walk into her classroom, you have the real sense that it's a team operation," school principal Kathleen Corley said.

Bluffton Regional Business Council Member of the Year

Farmers Market of Bluffton: The Farmers Market of Bluffton has become a mainstay on Calhoun Street, showcasing the Lowcountry's produce, seafood, breads, baked goods and more each Thursday.

This year, the market was ranked No. 1 in the state for the second time, and No. 11 nationally by the American Farmland Trust, a farming trade organization.

"It started out as a small operation, and it's really turned into a movement," Matt Green of Buckwalter Commercial said. "It really promotes the authenticity of Old Town Bluffton."

Zonta Woman of the Year

Francine Tobin: Tobin works as a prosecuting attorney in the 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office; she is the vice president and chief financial officer of Tobin Bone and Joint Surgery; she is a founding board member of Room at the Inn of the Lowcountry and the Outpatient Surgery Center of Hilton Head; and she still finds time to volunteer at The Deep Well Project and St. Francis Thrift Shop.

"In her particularly quiet way she has made Beaufort County a safer place to live," Solicitor Duffie Stone said. "It takes a special person to do what she does, to have that attention to detail, and yet to have that compassion."

Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

Related content:

Hollywood-themed Chamber Ball honors stars who help their community shine

Martin, Doughtie win top chamber award, Feb. 4, 2012

Former Hilton Head mayor Tom Peeples awarded Order of Palmetto at chamber ball, Feb. 5, 2011

Chamber honors its best at Saturday ball, Jan. 18, 2009

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