Glenn Miller unveiled a unique musical sound 80 years ago that altered the Big Band Era and made him one of the most famous bandleaders in the world.
“It’s been interesting to see how much interest there is in the music of Glenn Miller. He was born in 1904 and lost his life while serving his country during World War II in 1944. People all around the world appreciate his music and what he did,” Glenn Miller Birthplace Society President Marvin Negley said. “It’s been a good thing for Clarinda to have someone known around the world born here.”
Clarinda will celebrate the life and music of its famed hometown maestro during the 44th Annual Glenn Miller Festival. The musical extravaganza will be held from Thursday, June 6, through Sunday, June 9.
Miller fans will have a rare opportunity to learn just how he developed his famous sound during a special presentation by Dennis Spragg at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 8, in the Clarinda High School Auditorium. Spragg is serves with the Glenn Miller Archives in Boulder, Colorado.
The presentation, titled “1939 Glenn Found the Sound,” explores how Miller blended different instruments to create his unique musical sound.
“We will also have a new display at the Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum highlighting the how the new sounds was developed. There is a whole story behind it, so I encourage people to come and see the exhibit,” Negley said.
Media historian Mike Delaney will also present a program on the “Female Swing Bands of the Night Shift” at 8 a.m. Friday, June 7, at Clarinda High School. Featuring an entertaining musical video, the program provides insight into the dedicated female musicians from the swing eras of the 1930’s and 19040’s who have been mostly overlooked by movies, the press, radio and TV.
“Later generations don’t even know they existed, but there were a lot of female jazz bands during that time period. I remember hearing some of them on the radio. It should be a really interesting program,” Negley said.
Along with the programs, fans attending the Glenn Miller Festival will also be able to enjoy concerts by six bands and musicians. People regularly attending the festival will be treated to one new band along with some of their returning favorites.
Michael “Gooch” Gurciullo and his Las Vega Big Band will make their festival debut at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 8, in the high school auditorium. In 1987, Gurciullo served at a vocalist with the Glenn Miller Orchestra under the direction of Dick Gerhart.
The high energy, Vegas-style, hip, big band show features a 17-piece band. “Gooch” weaves the audience in and out of songs dealing with the beauty of love gained and the heartache of love lost.
“He is an outstanding trumpet player that can really hit the high notes, so I think people will really enjoy hearing him play. He is also a singer and performs songs from Frank Sinatra,” Negley said.
The opening concert of the festival will be presented by the University of Nebraska Omaha Jazz Ensemble. The concert will be presented at 8 p.m. on the downtown square in Clarinda. In case of inclement weather, the concert will be moved to the high school auditorium.
Adam Swanson, the four-time winner of the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest, will perform at 1:15 p.m. Friday, June 7, in the high school auditorium. Having grown up in Shenandoah, Swanson has played at Carnegie Hall; the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.; the Cinecon Classic Film Festival in Hollywood; Australia; Switzerland; and Hungary. Swanson performs every summer at the historic Strater Hotel in Durango, Colorado.
“Adam just keeps getting better. He puts on a great show and explains the history of the music he plays. We are lucky to have someone from Southwest Iowa that is as talented as he is,” Negley said.
The Tom Daugherty Orchestra will be making its sixth appearance at the Glenn Miller Festival. The orchestra will present a concert at 3:30 p.m. Friday, June 7, in the high school auditorium. The group will also play during the Big Band Breakfast Saturday morning at the Clarinda Fire Station.
“One of the unusual things about this band is Tom Daugherty stayed with one of the original Glenn Miller band members, Norman Leyden, for a few weeks to study the music of Glenn Miller,” Negley said.
The World-Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra will perform twice during the festival. The orchestra will present a concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 7, in the high school auditorium and will perform during the swing dance starting at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 8, in the Clarinda High School gymnasium.
Prior to the dance, the Nebraska Brass Band under the direction of Glenn Greet will perform at 1:15 p.m. Saturday, June 8, in the high school gym. The band epitomizes the British-style brass band.
“Glenn Greet is from Europe and the Nebraska Brass Band features about 300 musicians from all over Nebraska. Most of them are band directors, so they certainly know how to play,” Negley said.
As if that were not enough, guests at the festival will also be treated to the talents of some of the best up and coming musicians and singers from across the United States during the Glenn Miller Birthplace Society Music Scholarship Competition.
The competition will be held Thursday, June 6, to open the festival. Following an extensive audition process, 10 finalists in both the instrumental and vocal categories have been invited to compete for $12,000 in prizes. The competition is open to high school seniors and college freshmen.
Three winners will be selected in both the vocal and instrumental categories. Those winners will then be featured during the stage show at 9:30 a.m. Friday, June 7, in the high school auditorium. The stage show also features a performance by the Glenn Miller Birthplace Society Band.
“I hope our local people will take the time to come to the festival. It’s a great chance to hear some really outstanding band. In a small town like Clarinda, being able to drive a few blocks to hear these outstanding bands is a unique opportunity and we need to take advantage of it,” Negley said.
Although there are no concerts scheduled for Sunday, June 9, visitors to the Glenn Miller Festival can spend the day touring the three museums in Clarinda. The Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum, Nodaway Valley Historical Museum and Clarinda Carnegie Art Museum will each be open.