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Local group brings big band tunes back to life

| February 11, 2020

The Lake Park Big Band will take you back in time for an evening of dance and romance with your special someone.

The Lake Park Big Band Sweetheart Dance will be held from 8 to 11 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15, at Lake Park Pavilion.

The Lake Park Big Band is a traditional 17-piece big band that started performing in 1998 around Coshocton.

“The first time we played together was in The Salvation Army band room,” said Tim Vance, director. “We didn’t have much music and when we first got together we were terrible. We just hadn’t practiced together. We all loved big band music though and wanted the opportunity to play.”

The band was brought together under the direction of Gary Bantum, who also happened to be the president of the Friends of the Park. He and Don Nixon worked together to use the band to support the Lake Park Pavilion and the park district.

“Somehow we got booked for our initial gig (at the pavilion) in the early fall of 1998,” Vance said. “We had several rehearsals and put things together. I don’t even think we got paid for that first one. The guys in the band just wanted the opportunity to play for someone. Don was concerned we were going to be a big flop, but the audience was enthusiastic and supportive. They loved the big band music and dancing in the iconic pavilion.”

The pavilion was built in 1923 and played host to many dance bands during the 1930s, 1940s, and later.

“We agreed that we would support efforts to support the pavilion,” Vance said. “Our reputation grew after that and we’ve had musicians from all over (Ohio). Ron (Geese) also is an accomplished arranger and has written several pieces one being ‘Evening at Lake Park.’ Coshocton Polka is another one of our fun pieces.”

As director Vance comes up with the play list for performances and Geese makes sure all the parts are covered.

“That is very important for a big band with 17 different parts,” Vance said. “We can get by with one part missing, but not the lead missing.”

In addition to the band members, the group also has signers Donovan Rice and Samantha Servais.

“Gwenna Neal was our first full time singer,” Vance said. “Her dad had a big band in the Akron area when she was growing up. She had some real style and knew what she was doing.”

The Lake Park Big Band usually plays at least three concerts a year and also has played at weddings in the past.

“I play fourth trumpet,” Geese said. “I’ve always loved big band music and got the opportunity to play (with the band) many years ago when (the late) Robin Coffman invited me. We have a very high level of playing ability in the band right now.”

They are honored to be the house band for Lake Park Pavilion.

“It means a lot for us to be able to play there,” Vance said. “We get to set the mood with Glenn Miller classics from the ‘30s and ‘40s that was the same music that was (originally) played in this historic building. The pavilion is a unique structure.”

Geese said the pavilion is currently in need of a new floor and they want to support efforts to preserve the building.

Tickets to the sweetheart dance are $15 a person. Snacks are available for purchase or you can bring your own. Alcohol also is permitted, but not available for sale.

“We want to encourage people to come out,” Vance said. “We want to play for a good crowd. A big crowd and dancers encourage the band.”

Geese agreed with Vance.

“There are a lot of good dancers,” Geese said. “We are surprised how good some people are.”

Vance added that dancers like to hear a live band.

“We have a lot of favorites and not everything is from the big band era,” he said. “We play ‘Proud Mary,’ ‘Fever,’ which Samantha (Servais) sings and Frank Sinatra songs like ‘New York, New York,’ that Donovan sings.”

Both Geese and Vance’s favorite piece in the band’s library is Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood.”

“That song is so identified with Glenn Miller,” Geese said. “I never heard it in person, but it was one of his biggest hits. It really makes me think of him.”

Vance added that the song gets dancers moving.

“When people hear the intro to it they get out of their chairs and right on the dance floor,” he said.

For more information on the sweetheart dance, call 740-622-7528.

“We encourage people to buy tickets and come out and enjoy the band,” Vance said. “You don’t have to stay the whole night.”

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Category: Arts & Entertainment

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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