Hearing the music is one thing, but seeing the band perform live is something totally different, said Brian Leff, the director of jazz studies at West Ranch High School in Stevenson Ranch.
The Glenn Miller Orchestra performed Tuesday evening at West Ranch for the sixth time since 2005, when the school’s award-winning music program was established.
According to Leff, who organized the event, even those who haven’t been fans of jazz have enjoyed the feeling of being transported back to the 1940s, to the height of the big band era. The showmanship of the musicians, he said, is really fun to watch.
“It’s music from what, 80 years ago now, but it still sounds fresh,” Leff told The Signal in an interview over the phone during a break between classes earlier this week. “The people that are playing the music — they’re young musicians. A lot of the guys in the band are right out of college and on tour, on the road. But it’s a fresh sound, and yet it’s still this classic sound that never dies.”
The Glenn Miller Orchestra has played its unique brand of jazz and what have been called timeless melodies since 1956, offering hits like “In the Mood,” “Moonlight Serenade” and “Pennsylvania 6-5000.” According to the band’s website, it plays an average of 300 live dates a year all around the world.
The orchestra is named in memory of Glenn Miller, the big band composer, conductor and trombone player who achieved fame in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and whose plane vanished on Dec. 15, 1944, on his way from England to France to entertain U.S. troops during World War II.
The concert at West Ranch, according to a news release, was a benefit for the school’s music program with a goal to raise funds for the purchase of new music and instruments, the hiring of clinicians to help student musicians hone their skills, and for the students to attend jazz festivals and other music education activities.
Leff told The Signal that Tuesday’s Glenn Miller show helped the program reach its goals.
“We raised enough money to continue to offer the music education, services and everything that we’re hoping to provide for our students,” he said. “Overall, it was a great success.”
The West Ranch Theater, he recalled, was almost full on Tuesday. And most of the audience wasn’t just school staff, students and parents, but community members out for a good night of music from yesteryear.
“It’s great to host this event for our senior citizen community especially,” Leff said. “That’s definitely the demographic that comes out to this concert. It allows them to kind of go back to their childhood when this music was popular for them.”
Leff added that music students were equally as “jazzed” to see the Glenn Miller musicians jam.
“It’s almost like they’re their heroes,” he said. “They’re doing what the students are doing currently in high school, but at such a higher level. It’s like going to sit courtside at a basketball game and watching your stars play the game.”
To be able to offer that kind of inspiration to his students and also generate the funds needed to maintain award-winning bands, jazz ensembles and orchestras was, Leff said, definitely something special.