Big band performs free concert

Florence Area Big Band celebrates jazz


Photo by: Lauren Owens

The Florence Area Big Band plays jazz music from the 1940s. FMU alum Rod Pope performs with the Florence Big Area Band.

Lauren Owens, Editor-in-Chief

The Florence Area Big Band performed a free concert in the FMU Performing Arts Center BB&T Amphitheatre.

During the Oct. 1, performance, the Florence Area Big Band performed jazz pieces such as Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” Ron Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade” and Glenn Miller’s “Pennsylvania 6-5000.”

According to Julian Graham, director of the Florence Area Big Band and one of the band’s founders, they picked jazz songs from the “Big Band Era” to help preserve the style of jazz music. Some pieces were instrumental while others were sang by Mal Weaverly

Graham said he picked songs from a variety of different styles including some modern renditions of old songs such as a Michael Bublé version of “Save the Last Dance,” which was originally written by The Drifters.

During the performance, the band encouraged audience members to dance.

FMU Professor of Physics Dr. Larry Engelhardt attended the concert with his wife. They were one of approximately five couples who danced during the concert.

According to Engelhardt, he and his wife have been involved with swing dancing since they were in college. They said they even won a swing dancing competition.

The Florence Area Big Band is a 16-piece swing and jazz big band composed of five saxophones, four trombones, three trumpets, a piano, bass, guitar and drums. Members of the band range from a freshman in college to a 70-year-old, according to Graham.

Rod Brown, a 2006 alum of FMU and saxophonist, has played in the band since he in college.

He said he joined because he wanted to continue to be involved with music.

Brown said he plays eight instruments: clarinet, oboe, flute, bass clarinet and our types of saxophones. During the concert, Brown played the saxophone, switching to the clarinet for one song.

Currently, Brown works with the U.S. Agricultural Research Service in a lab in addition to playing with the Florence Area Big Band.

Prior to the concert, Larry Falck and Katherine Barnette, staff members in FMU University Communications, taught an East-Coast Swing, a similar dance to Lindy Hop.

According to Falck, all of the people who attended the class were first-time learners. He said he hopes to spark an interest swing dancing.

“I’m always trying to get more people interested in swing dancing just because I love it so much,” Falck said. “Whenever the Florence Area Big Band plays, I try to get people to learn swing dancing so they can enjoy it, not sitting there tapping their toes. They actually get up and dance to it.”

Falck is the leader of the Florence Area Swing Dance Association, which is a group for people who enjoy swing dancing. According to Falck, he began the group in February of 2016.

Barnette said she began learning to dance last year with the Florence Area Swing Association and has been an active member ever since.

“I enjoy learning about all different styles of dance,” Barnette said. “It is always fun to come help other people learn about [dance].”