UpSwing Jazz Orchestra
Upswing group was conceived by trumpeter, Dale Rude. Many of the original members had not played their instruments in years, but were eager and willing to work to get the ensemble off and running.
The original intent of the group as stated by Walt Dean (trumpet) was "to bring music from the Big Band Era to those who enjoy it". Initially, it was a small group of nine players who gathered around the piano at Greg Ayers (trombone) home and played their way through some of the Hal Leonard's Discovery Jazz Series charts. Original members included: Saxophones - Leon Boswell, Tom Brawley, Jimmie Stewart, and Dick Raymond; Trumpets - Dale Rude, Walt Dean (also subbed on drums), and Frank Bray; Trombone - Greg Ayers; Piano - Ed Stahl. After a few rehearsals and looking to perform some places it was decided they needed a name. After some deliberation it was decided to called the group "The Pacemakers".
The debut of the musicians was in Greg Ayers' back yard to a group of his neighbors. The main purpose for inviting the neighbors was to avoid having them call the police for disturbing the peace. Later in the year the band was engaged to play for Dale Rude's granddaughter's wedding at the Surrey House in McKinney, Texas. The attendees having the taste of fine libations received the entertainment with gusto! This gave the members confidence and a desire to continue the rehearsals.
A bit later the group performed a Christmas Concert at a Town North YMCA where Leon Boswell was a member. After the concert, some of the audience members asked some of the band "Do all of you have pacemakers?" This was very disturbing to one of the more influential band members and the name was changed to Upswing.
As there was progress realized, they saw a need for a director. Dick Raymond volunteered to lead and was able to keep the group together. Vocalist, Mona White in the meantime had joined the group and some of the arrangements were altered to incorporate her talent.
They were seeing now they really needed some help, so Bob Austin was approached who had taken over the conducting chores of the Concert Band and asked if he would help. Bob was an outstanding director as well as alto sax player having big band experience. Since the members also played in NHBD the plan began to fall into place. Bob agreed not only to play lead alto, but also agreed to direct and do some writing and arranging for the band; however it was a sad day, April 19, 2008 when Bob passed away.
One of the trombone players in the concert group, Sandy Barrows, retired airline pilot, agreed to step in and direct Upswing. Sandy fronted the group about two years and during that time vocalist, Stephanie Askew, joined the band as vocalist and MC.
About two years later, Mike Rossi, took over the directing chores for the group. Mike took the group toward a more "jazz" approach but continuing to play the old standards from the "Big Band" Era.
In June, 2013, the conducting assignment was passed to the current director, Bill Geyer. The band's mission is music education for everyone and keeping the sounds of the "Big Bands" alive and well to enjoy. Three current members from the original and beginning band include saxophone - Tom Brawley; trumpet - Frank Bray; and drummer - June Stoskopf. The band has and is made up of seniors who are retired, semi-retired professionals in various disciplines such as airline pilots, law enforcement workers, programmers, photographers, SW Bell, Texas Instruments, school administration, chemists, nurserys, etc. Some of the players are presently still working in their fields.
The current roster for the orchestra is: Saxophones: Alto - Kathy Warren, Fred Parrill; Tenor - Ron Eitzen, Lynn Denson; Bari - Tom Brawley, Lorenzo Parker; Trombones - Ray Martin, Bob Sims, Jack Millaway, Bass Trombone - George McCalley, Trumpets - Bill Coburn, Frank Bray, Rob Aikey, David Hall; Mellophone - Phil Cook; Piano - Bob Goodwin; Vibraphone - Warren Gallic; Bass - Mica Calfee; Guitar - Simon Neame; Drums - June Stotskopf.