Kokomo Park Band to present annual 'Big Band Night' in Highland Park

Friday, July 20, 2018 - 06:22

Kokomo Park Band will present its annual Big Band Night in Highland Park on Wednesday. 

This year’s program covers nearly four decades of swing-style music.  Freddie Mendoza, Professor of Jazz Studies at Ball State University, will conduct a hybrid group of KPB members and seasoned Midwestern jazz musicians for this program. Featured soloists will include Gary Wallyn and Cherresa Lawson on vocals. 

The program is a tribute to perhaps some of the most popular jazz bands from the 1930s through the 1960s, a press release stated. Music will range from the dance music of Count Basie and Tommy Dorsey to the somewhat more progressive style of Thad Jones-Mel Lewis and the excitement generated by Buddy Rich.  Most of the arrangements are authentic with particular attention given to the unique styles of each of the bands represented.

Guest conductor Freddie Mendoza, has distinguished himself as one of the leading trombonists, euphoniumists and educators on the jazz scene today. He has performed across the United States and abroad, playing music ranging from the big band style of the 1940s to R&B and Latin jazz, sharing the stage with many of jazz music’s greats, including Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Printup, Marvin Stamm, Clark Terry, Bill Watrous, Rob McConnell, Bob Mintzer and Harry Connick, Jr., Michael Feinstein, Franki Valle, The Temptations and Lawrence Welk Orchestra to name a few.

For over 20 years, Mendoza has also made his mark in the field of music education, the release continued. Formerly the Director of Jazz Studies at University of Indianapolis and Texas State University-San Marcos, he has most recently brought his talents to Ball State University as Assistant Professor of Trombone and Online Studies. Previous positions include Artistic Director of the San Antonio Youth Jazz Ensemble, Director of the Austin All-City Jazz Band and Assistant Director of the Disney All- American College Band. He is in high demand as a guest artist, clinician, adjudicator and guest director for jazz programs and jazz festivals around the nation.

Freddie is a voting member of the National Academy for Recording Arts and Sciences (Grammy Association) and the Latin Academy for Recording Arts and Sciences (Latin Grammy Association).

Vocalist Cherresa Lawson is the director of the award-winning Kokomo High School Choirs. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Music from Ball State University and is active as a performer and teacher. She was the 2005 American Traditions Competition semi-finalist and was invited to perform at the event this past February. Lawson has performed jazz, blues and pop music at numerous venues across the Midwest for several years with various artists including the Caribbean Consort Steel Band.  She will sing “I Loves You Porgy” by  George Gershwin as arranged for Billy Holiday, and “Everyday I Have the Blues,” popularized by the Count Basie Orchestra.

Male vocalist Gary Wallyn is a native of Chicago. He graduated from St. Joseph College and Indiana State University and served as a band director for 21 years at Princeton and Kokomo High Schools. More recently he served as interim music director and instructor at St. Joseph College and Indiana State University and is currently the band director at Alexandria Schools near Anderson.   As a vocalist, Wallyn has been a recent member of the Indianapolis Symphonic Chorus, the Diminuendos Chorus, is a soloist with the St. Joan of Arc Church Choir in Kokomo and has been featured on numerous occasions as a baritone soloist with the Kokomo Symphony Orchestra.   When he’s not singing with the Kokomo Park Band, Wallyn can be found playing in the Kokomo Park Band’s saxophone section and serves as the organization’s librarian. He will be featured on “You Make Me Feel So Young,” arranged by Quincy Jones for Frank Sinatra, and ““On the Street Where You Live,” arranged by Nelson Riddle for Dean Martin.

Selection to be performed and the bands they represent include “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got that Swing” (Duke Ellington) “Basically Blues” and Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale”  (Buddy Rich),  “Opus One” (Tommy Dorsey),  “Vine Street Rumble” (Count Basie), “Groove Merchant” (Thad Jones-Mel Lewis), “Skyliner” (Charlie Barnet) and “Central Park West” (John Coltrane).

In the event of inclement weather, the performance will be moved to Kokomo High School. The Ballroom Dance Club of Kokomo will assist with program distribution. Dr. Robert Lee, Center Township Trustee, will announce.  Admission is free and the performance will begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

The concert is part of the weekly Summer Concert Series presented in cooperation with the, Kokomo Parks Department, the Community Foundation of Howard County, the Tippecanoe Arts Federation in cooperation with the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, and American Legion Post #6.    This concert is made possible by the generous donations from individuals and area business who are fans and supporters of the band.  Contributions should be sent to Kokomo Park Band; PO Box 6039; Kokomo, IN 46904-6039.

For more information, visit www.kokomoparkband.org or the band’s Facebook page.

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