MURRAY, KY (KFVS) - On Friday, Oct. 27, the walls of Lovett Auditorium at Murray State University will resonate with sounds of the big band era during the third annual Swingin' Memories Homecoming Dance. It features the award-winning Murray State University Jazz Orchestra directed by Todd E. Hill, professor of music and director of jazz studies.
This year, the event will take place on the stage of historic Lovett Auditorium at 8:30 p.m. The auditorium will be set up for dancing as it would have been during the days of the swing bands: the band at one end with an open dance floor and a ring of tables and chairs around the perimeter. There is no admission fee for this event; however, a suggested $10 donation will be accepted. All proceeds support the jazz program at Murray State.
"This is such a terrific opportunity for these student musicians," said Hill, a long-time professional bandleader who has been playing at dances for 35 years. "They get to experience playing for dancers — and the basis of all jazz is that it should have a danceable beat, so what better way to feel the give and take that motion brings to the music? Those who don't care to dance are also more than welcome to just come, listen and enjoy the music."
The Murray State Jazz Orchestra will play a number of swing tunes from the 1930's and 40's as well as some later hits up through the 1960's, including songs made famous by Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Les Brown, Count Basie. The Murray State Jazz Band will also perform an opening set, providing continuous music from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Additional songs to be featured were used by many of the Murray State dance bands from the period, including those led by Billy Shelton, Len Foster, Jim Fern, Leroy Offerman, Bill Crosswy and the Phi Mu Alpha "Men of Note" band. Some compositions were also originally performed by territorial dance bands that featured many Murray State music students and were headed by Jack Staulcup and Tom Lonardo.
In Hill's tenure at the University, the Murray State Jazz Orchestra has appeared by invitation at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic; appeared three times at the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival; and, earlier this year, made their fourth appearance at the Kentucky Music Educators Conference. They have released three albums, one of which qualified for Grammy nomination. A fourth album consisting of holiday classics will be released later this year and may be pre-ordered at the Swingin' Memories Homecoming Dance. Other CD albums by the Murray State Jazz Orchestra will also be available for $10 donations.
The Swingin' Memories Homecoming Dance takes place Friday, Oct. 27, at 8:30 p.m. in Lovett Auditorium. For more information on this year's Homecoming festivities at Murray State, please visit murraystate.edu/homecoming.