Swingin’ Memories homecoming dance showcases university jazz orchestra

Story by Emily Williams, Contributing writer

The Murray State jazz orchestra will be performing in Lovett Auditorium on Friday, Oct. 28, for Murray State’s Swingin’ Memories Homecoming Dance.

All Murray State students are welcome and encouraged to come and take part in the tradition.

Todd E. Hill, director of the jazz ensembles, said the jazz orchestra will primarily be playing swing music from the 1930s and ‘40s, with a few tunes from the 1920s up to the 1960s.

“The dance will be held on the stage of Lovett Auditorium, much like they did back during the days of the touring big bands,” Hill said. “The stage gives us a large area for the band to set up, and still have tables and chairs, plus a large dance floor.”

Hill said there will be many different kinds of dances at the event such as swing dancing, foxtrots, two-steps, waltzes, cha-chas and rumbas. He said the public is invited to participate in the dancing and said swing dance lessons for students unfamiliar with social dancing will be given at 7:30 p.m. by Ashley and Pam Thurman of Paducah, Kentucky.

“We’re paying special attention to our alums, but anyone can come,” Hill said. “There is not an official admission fee but we request a $5 donation for students and $10 for adults. Our CDs will also be for sale at the dance for $10 donations as well.”

Hill said the jazz orchestra will play two sets joined by the Murray State jazz band, who will play a relief set in the middle of the dance.

“We did it as a one-time experiment last year, and everybody seemed to like it enough to warrant doing it again. It’s an old tradition that we have revived. ” Hill said. “The musicians have fun playing for it too – and it gives them a real world, professional experience.”

Kevin Kortz, freshman from Paducah, Kentucky, and member of the jazz orchestra said they have been working on the music for the dance since the beginning of the semester.

“I think it’s extremely exciting, especially as a freshman, being in such a collegiate group,” Kortz said. “It kind of tells how big of a deal jazz orchestra is and how big of a deal this homecoming dance is. As a freshman, I’m super excited to learn and see the kind of traditions that Murray State has.”

Kortz said he thinks students might be hesitant at first but will come out and dance as the night progresses and people become more comfortable with it.

“Bring all your friends, sit back and relax, don’t worry about your classes, and just enjoy the music as you support the music department,” Kortz said.

Pamela Wurgler, chair of the music department, said the dance use to be a big tradition for Murray State’s homecoming a very long time ago.

“I love that we are going back to resurrecting an old tradition of homecoming weekend having a dance that was a swing dance, basically,” Wurgler said. “So, it’s old music, old styles. I think that’s really fun for our students and our alumni.”