The Sea'T'Sky Big Band is venturing out of Squamish to Whistler for the first time.
The community band has been practicing around and performing at home for the last two years, but only recently have they begun to travel beyond city limits.
"The band is relatively new," says musical director Michael Perkins. "I'm still new to the area. It's gradually stretching out. Next year we'll be going into Vancouver to do performances with a vocal group. As we get more established it starts stretching out further."
The group — now made up of 18 members — first started after Perkins moved to Squamish from Kelowna with his wife, who took a job at Howe Sound Secondary School. As a longtime professional musician and music teacher, he immediately began to search for a local big band to join. The problem: one didn't exist. But, he discovered, the area was full of talented musicians who might be interested.
"I put the word out there and heard there were good musicians around," he says. "Gradually, players have filtered in and we've got 18 musicians now, community players and semi-professional players who have played full time before. There's great talent in Squamish."
In addition to Perkins' years of experience on the trumpet and flugelhorn, the range of instruments include five saxophones, a trombone, trumpet and rhythm section that boasts bass, guitar and piano. "I think it's community players having a really good time and trying to work at honing an art form and exposing some really good musicians who live and play in Squamish," he says.
For their debut Whistler show at Millennium Place June 8, they'll perform a range of music from 1940s tunes to funk tracks and Latin music. They will also feature two local singers, Danielle Sweeney and Laveera Rempel-Johnston.
"That's one of the neat things about big band," Perkins says. "The genre is wide open. It's not just swing, we do Latin, rock stuff, R&B. It really is an opportunity to try lots of different genres in the jazz area."
The first set of the show will include Sweeney's vocals, which lend themselves to more traditional swing music, while the second half with Rempel-Johnston will include more rock and jazz tracks. "We started off with just instrumental songs and stretched out," Perkins says of their new vocal additions. "I'm always trying to experiment with different concepts. This year we started using vocalists and expanded on that a little more. We've done one or two shows with Danielle and then Laveera came on the scene and we developed more tunes around her."
That's been Perkins' general approach to choosing music for the group as it's honed its sound with more practice. "Knowing the players in the band, I researched music (for the show) and pulled songs," he says. "It's what I do. I also teach music."
The musicians in the band range in age from 18 to 80 and Perkins hopes the audience will reflect that as well. Big band music has long appealed to players young and old, he adds. "Lots of younger people are playing jazz in bands in school and college," he says. "We do more than just swing music, which a lot of younger kids are less familiar with. We're doing blues and R&B and a couple of Michael Buble tunes, which younger people are familiar with."
After two years, they're more than ready to show off all their hard work, he adds. While everyone in the group has a day job, they manage to get together twice a month at least, but often more than that leading up to shows.
"We practice consistently," he says. "When you practice anything it gets better. The first rehearsal obviously is a little rough, but now it's gelling and we've got some talented players. There's lots of excellent solos and ensemble playing."
Come and check it out for yourself June 8 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available for $17 at artswhistler.tix.com.
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