On Saturday night, Ayers Gym was transformed into the French Quarter of New Orleans complete with live jazz music, swing dancing, and Cajun catering for the 34th annual Big Band Dance, the music program’s one and only fundraiser.
Attendees dance to the music.
Music Director Kent Kurrus explained, “It is the single fundraiser we do every year. I don't like to do fundraisers and if I'm going to do one it's going to be big, it's going to be music related.” The Big Band Dance typically raises over $20,000 every year. Jazz Band II, Jazz Band III, Concert Band and Orchestra played throughout the night. Senior Emma Denend, sophomore Charlie Smith, and sophomore Giovanni Vial, all members of Jazz Band III, sang solos and as a trio.
“Jazz is such a dying art right now,” said Vial, speaking on the importance of the Big Band Dance. “It spreads awareness, artistically speaking. Jazz is such an American invention, so I think it's pretty special in that way, especially here in this venue.”
Concert Band prepares to play.
Kurrus explained that “New Orleans is a hotbed for jazz and we kind of endorsed that theme with the food because we have jambalaya and other New Orleans style food here tonight.” Other parts of New Orleans culture incorporated into the dance were swing dancing and the Second Line Parade, a tradition where people dance behind the band (which is the First Line) as they wind around the dance floor. A swing dance lesson was taught by dance instructors James Kleinrath and Melody Singleton.
Senior Neel Sinha, who is a part of Jazz Band III and a student band called Band Sanitizer (they performed at both the Welcome Back Dance and Homecoming), said this while plucking at his guitar, “My favorite part about the Big Band Dance is the feeling of going up there and just watching everyone dance together on the dance floor. At other performances we are at the back and everyone's staring at us but in this one, everyone’s talking to each other by the tables, all spinning around swing dancing. It's really fun.”
The bleachers were decorated with colorful lights and posters.
Smith said that her favorite part of the Big Band Dance was the intimacy of the performances. “The best thing about the Big Band Dance is that it’s not on a stage, which sounds funny, but since I'm on the ground with everybody else I can make more gestures and eye contact with people and it feels a lot more personal than being up away on the stage.” She continued, “tonight I was really nervous because I had a sore throat. I was scared that it was going to be really raspy. But once I started singing and saw my friends’ faces, I immediately forgot about the nerves.”
Street lights set the scene.
“I just like the fact, especially when you see kids who are a part of M-A who are not in the band program and that they come here to dance and enjoy the evening” said Michelle King, mother of senior Alex King.
Liana Burfoot, a sophomore in Concert Band, said “The Big Band Dance is where all the bands come together. Everyone knows each other and we’re just like a great big family.”