All indications are that the first-ever East High Alumni Swing Show was a success. A little background: back in 1939, at the suggestion of a particular student, my high school started having an annual event that they dubbed the “Swing Show,” which features musical, dance, and dramatic performances by students. It ends up being something of a school talent show, punctuated with a few numbers from the school jazz band. The show then runs for three performances for students and the public. Probably one of the most fun activities the school has.

Well recently a certain alumnus, Bill Quibbell (who as it turns out, is the brother of an aunt of mine) had an idea to put on an all-alumni Swing Show to help raise funds to renovate the school auditorium. Turns out the auditorium was already going to be renovated, but Bill decided it couldn’t hurt to do the show anyway as a fund-raiser for the music and drama departments anyway. Leah saw something in the paper about it and pointed it out to me, and I ended up going to a meeting and signing up to do pretty much whatever – I ended up being put in the band, originally as drummer, but then was moved to trumpet, the instrument I played while a student at East.

There were some troubles with directing the band early on, and the band’s role in the show was stripped down to about four songs, with the other numbers being backed with recorded tracks. Most of the band, small a group though it was, couldn’t make it to rehearsals, save for myself and the other trumpet player. In between numbers, I would also lend a little bit of help to switching sets and moving props.

If you know me at all it probably seems strange that I would put the time and effort in to do something nice for my high school. High school, and adolescence in general, was largely a disaster for me, and I was in constant conflict with or fear of just about everyone around me. But then I latched on to music and threw myself wholeheartedly into anything I could get into via the music department, and I believe to this day that that was what kept me from meltdown. Coincidentally, the years when I started seriously applying myself to music at East High, the early years of Edgar East’s work as band director there, were some of the biggest years in recent history for that school’s band in terms of artistry, quality, and recognition. I hated nearly every moment of every day that I had to be in school that I wasn’t playing that horn, so I’d sign up for all sorts of auxiliary projects that Ed East would put together – brass quintets playing Christmas carols at the mall, small jazz combos playing gigs for elementary and junior high kids, adding a horn section to the orchestra for a few pieces, you name it. I clawed my way up from the last chair of the trumpet section to the first, and won various awards and things along the way. I was a troubled kid, but music was my solace. Without it, who knows how I’d have ended up. So really, it’s rather fitting that I would want to pitch in for something like this, and I only wish that I could have done even more.

So anyway, the Alumni Swing Show ended up getting quite a bit of support and sponsorship from the community and various local businesses, and pretty near sold out the auditorium for all three performances at $10 a ticket. Sets were built, costumes and outfits made and rented, songs chosen, dances worked out, and rehearsals had, and by Tuesday of the last week, with just three days left before the first show, things were still looking and sounding rough. But at the dress rehearsal on the eve of the first performance, things finally started coming together, and the show ended up being very entertaining and very well-received. We even had the former student who originally proposed the idea of the Swing Show to the school back in 1939 – a sweet old lady named Ruby something – come out and help introduce the show. (She also gave us some very honest feedback at the rehearsals, which may well have been the kick in the ass we needed!)

Along the way I met some truly wonderful people, and had a lot of fun. The last performance was a week ago tonight, and last I heard, the expenses were covered through various contributions and sponsorships such that the entirety of the ticket sales was going straight to the school music and drama department. So, all told, a success, and the talk of the town for a couple of days there. From the beginning there was talk of making it an annual event, so I’m already excited at the prospect of doing it again next year.

Charlie Schiz

Charlie Schiz
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. I've been weird all my life. It's my time to shine.

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