by Zacch Estrada-Petersen

The big band style of music rose to popularity in America in the mid-1920s. It became even more popular when the large ensembles with their blending of jazz and swing undertones paired with powerhouse vocalists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra.
The big band era is long behind us, but its sound remains alive and well in our backyard.
The Lake Norman Big Band has been a staple in the community for more than a decade, forming in the late ‘90s under another community group before later branching off.
“We started as a subset of the Lake Norman Orchestra,” Mark Ely said. He’s the group’s spokesman, who also plays trumpet for the band. “We broke away from them in 2007 and incorporated as our own non-profit organization.”
The approximately 20-piece band has an assorted playlist that includes jazz classics such as “My Funny Valentine” and “What a Wonderful World,” along with modern hits such as Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why” and the Carlos Santana/Rob Thomas duet “Smooth.”
“We play big band jazz and jazz arrangements of popular music with four trumpets, four trombones, five saxes and a rhythm section,” Ely said. “We also have three vocalists that share the bandstand with us and usually perform several tunes each during a performance.”
Bands are meant to function like a well-oiled machine, with every part needing to move in sync with the others. That’s why it is important that there’s a good fit with would-be band members when the ensemble has an opening.
“If we have an opening for either a full-time or substitute musician the appropriate section leader will invite the prospective musician to rehearse with us to ensure we have a match in terms of skill level and attitude,” Ely said.
The band is comprised entirely of volunteer musicians, bonded together by their common love and appreciation for this style of music.
The band can be seen fairly often throughout the Lake Norman area. Events this year have included a Valentine’s dance at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Denver, an evening at Hough High School with trombonist Jim Pugh and a gig at Davidson’s Concerts on the Green series in mid-June. Next on the agenda: making a joyful noise this coming Sunday at Williamson’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Mooresville.
“We’ll be performing for Sunday services with contemporary big band arrangements of traditional hymns and gospel tunes,” Ely said. “Since we rehearse at Williamson’s Chapel every Monday night, the band felt it would be appropriate to perform for the congregation as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for allowing us to hone our musical skills at your church.”
The band’s most regular stint is a monthly spot performing at the Finish Line Restaurant at Victory Lanes in Mooresville. You can catch them there from 7-9 p.m. on the fourth Monday of the month for July and August, and then the third Monday of every month for the rest of the year.
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