There are few things in life that are as pleasurable as a bit of live, big band jazz. Reminiscent of early 1920s and 30s America, big band jazz is one of a few genres of music that truly sparks a sense of nostalgia. Williamsport City Jazz Orchestra is able to offer that bit of pleasure a few times throughout the year.
Forthcoming is their highly anticipated performance at 7:30 p.m. April 26 at the Loyalsock Township High School Auditorium, 1720 Sycamore Road, Montoursville.
The WCJO is a relatively new, non-profit venture, formed in 2011, which was "the brainchild" of Dr. William "Bill" Ciabattari, music professor at Lycoming College, and Eddie Severn, the orchestra's president and trumpet player.
The Williamsport City Jazz Orchestra will perform at 7:30 p.m. April 26 at the Loyalsock Township High School Auditorium, 1720 Sycamore Road, Montoursville.
Prior to the existence of the orchestra, musicians who yearned to perform classic big band and jazz would have to travel to surrounding cities. By creating the WCJO, it not only is convenient for the musicians, but brings big band right here to Williamsport.
"The band consists of some of the best professional musicians from central Pa. Many of the members have toured and performed with major artists such as Buddy Rich, Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Phil Woods and the Empire Brass to name a few," Robert "Bobby" Leidhecker, Loyalsock Township Middle School's band director, and drummer for the WCJO, said.
More than just creating convenience for the musicians themselves, creating the jazz band in Williamsport was an opportunity to give a group of music-lovers the ability to get together and inspire.
"It was started by a group of Williamsport-based musicians to give the city its own jazz voice and to offer the community an ensemble that would get involved promoting the art form, and also help young players develop through concerts and workshops," Severn said.
Though the band is comprised of mainly local professionals and educators, there are also a few students, Severn said.
Many of the artists in the WCJO have been making music as far back as they can remember.
"I have played music all of my life. It is my passion. I teach and perform music of all styles to all ages," Leidhecker said.
"Other way around," Severn emphasized when asked why he pursued music. "Music pursued me from the age of 12. I can hardly remember a time when I did not play music."
The upcoming show will feature classic big band jazz, "played by a dynamic, tight and powerful big band," Leidhecker said.
The band has a wide repertoire of music that they perform.
They have played everything from Duke Ellington and Count Basie to Thad Jones and Gordon Goodwin, Severn said.
They focus on performing classic jazz and big band, with some original compositions from professional arrangers and composers who are not in the orchestra.
So far, the WSJO has been doing phenomenally well, having nearly sold out two of their holiday concerts in December at the Community Theatre League.
Their goal, now, is to capture and develop that momentum, Severn said.
In addition to that goal, the WSJO has plans to record an album, as well as to expand their "educational ideas," Severn said.
They also look to perform outside of the immediate Williamsport area.
"Jazz is America's folk music. It belongs to the USA. Why would anyone not want to come and celebrate that?" Severn said.
To be a part of the momentum, be sure to check out the Williamsport City Jazz Orchestra. Find them on Facebook, or more importantly, support them at their show on April 26.