Big Band Sweetheart Dance a sellout
February 12, 2008
From eight years old to 80, Park City community members got out their dancing shoes and hit the Yarrow Resort’s floor Friday sugar pushing and side passing to the swing-time rhythm of Park City High School’s varsity jazz band.
It was a sold-out crowd with 280 tickets purchased for this year’s annual Big Band Sweetheart Dance said Keiko Moffett, a volunteer parent who has helped coordinate the dance since it began four years ago.
Moffett emcees the event every year and says that for her the best part is the students’ response. "As soon as they play the first note and the entire dance floor fills up," she said, "I think that hits the kids the most. They need to know that they can deliver."
Moffett said she started the dance as a way to give the kids a more true-to-life performance experience. "You can be good in the studio or in the classroom, but the best way to gain that confidence is by performing in front of people," she said. "These students perform concerts, but they don’t get a lot of feedback."
For senior Matt Brown, this is what makes the big band dance his favorite performance of the year. "You get to play for a lot of people who paid to be there," he said. "There’s a degree of professionalism, but we’re still out there having fun."
Another reason Moffett proposed hosting a dance was so the people of Park City could see the high school’s talented musicians. "Upon hearing the varsity jazz band, I thought what a waste it was that the whole community didn’t know about them that we have musicians you could actually hire," she said.
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Senior Ben Lepley has played for the big band dance for the past three years. "It’s a good experience," he said. "The music is fun to play, and there’s really nothing like that around here. Plus I think a lot of kids wouldn’t hear that kind of music otherwise."
Band director Chris Taylor said he thought Friday was, by far, the best dance they’ve done yet. He said the varsity jazz band prepared at least 60 pieces of music for the event, some of which, they only went over once before performing.
"I pride myself on my kids’ ability to read music," he said. "They could go into the community and if someone needed a sub, they could go in and sight read."
The band was so popular, Taylor said, that he even had couples coming up to him asking if they could put something like this on once a month. "It’s a valuable tool for the kids, but it’s also fun for the community," he said. "For many, this is their only chance to get out and swing dance."
And man can they dance. "It’s always fun to catch my kids’ faces who haven’t done this before when they see the old people really dance," Taylor said.
Lepley added that what really strikes him every year is how inter-generational the dance is. Moffett said that was one of the things that drew her to choosing big band music as opposed to another style.
"That’s something big band dancing does in general I think. It brings generations together," she said. "Word has spread that it is a community dance and not just for parents. We had mothers dancing with their sons and grandfathers dancing with their granddaughters."
According to Moffett, the Big Band Sweetheart Dance is usually the highest grossing high school fundraiser. She said the Yarrow donates the ballroom and dance floor for the event and they sell the food at cost, which is a big help.
This year, funds raised will go toward the band and choral trip from April 3 to 7 to New York City for the Heritage Music Festival of Gold. Taylor said the money will help offset the cost of the trip, which is about $1,100 per student.
The school will be taking 88 students from several musical groups varsity jazz band, chamber orchestra, choir, etc. to compete in the festival.
"It’s a chance for us to see what other schools from across the country are doing," Taylor said. Brown added that, for him, it’s not only away to see what other bands are doing but also a chance to play with kids from around the nation.
Both Brown and Lepley said they plan on majoring in music in college. When asked why they liked varsity jazz band, Lepley looked a little confused. "Cause I love music," he said. "I wouldn’t be anywhere else."