Arts and Entertainment

Glenn Miller Orchestra swings into Auburn

The Glenn Miller Orchestra brings the big band sound to the Auburn Performing Arts Center on Friday night. - Courtesy photo
The Glenn Miller Orchestra brings the big band sound to the Auburn Performing Arts Center on Friday night.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

When it comes to big bands, they don't come any bigger than the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

For more than 70 years the music of Glenn Miller and his band has endured, thrilling audiences of all ages with American Songbook chestnuts like "Pennsylvania 6-5000," "In The Mood," "Moonlight Serenade" and "Chattanooga Choo Choo."

The Glenn Miller Orchestra will make a stop in Auburn on Friday, bringing the hits of the '30s and '40s to the Auburn Performing Arts Center, part of the Auburn Parks, Arts and Recreation's Bravo Series.

From its inception in 1939 until its founder Glenn Miller joined the U.S. Army and disbanded the group in 1942, the orchestra posted an impressive string of 70 top-10 hits.

Although Miller went missing in action and was presumed dead in 1944 while flying across the English Channel from London to Paris, his band has survived. Now, more than 70 years later the orchestra thrives, playing hundreds of shows across the country every year.

For musical director and vocalist Nick Hilscher, the opportunity to bring the music of the orchestra to new audiences is a dream come true.

"It's such an honor, it's something that for years I knew this is what I wanted to do in a professional capacity — keep this old music alive and exciting and new for newer generations," he said.

Hilscher got his first exposure to the band in the late '80s at the age of 11, when he saw "The Glenn Miller Story," a 1953 motion picture starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson.

"That was my first introduction to the music and that was it for me," he said. "I fell in love with the music and became a really big fan of it."

Not content to merely listen, Hilscher said he set about learning how to sing in the big band style.

"I really worked hard learning how to sing that type of music and when I was 20. I won an audition to be the lead male vocalist for the Glenn Miller Band," Hilscher said.

In 1998, less than a year after his audition, Hilscher became the band's lead male vocalist.

"I worked with the band for about six years," he said. "Then I had a chance to work with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and trombonist Buddy Morrow."

After Morrow's death in 2010, Hilscher became the musical director for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and in 2012 he was offered the same position with the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Despite the age of many of the tunes, Hilscher said he feels audiences enjoy the vitality and uplifting spirit of the music.

"Although the music is old, it's exciting and happy and just gives off a good vibe," Hilscher said. "The music these bands were doing is referred to as the American Songbook. It was based on music that was written for Broadway at the time and is extremely melodic and had great harmonic structure. That's what is so appealing to me. It's also based on jazz and has jazz rhythms. It's just very American. There is just a melody, harmony and rhythmic style that we don't hear very much in modern music."

Along the way, Hilscher said the audiences that attend the band's concerts have evolved.

"When I started we had a lot more of the WWII generation in the crowd," Hilscher said. "Now 14 years later, we have more of a baby boomer crowd, the children of the WWII generation coming. They're getting re-exposed to this music. And they're bringing their kids."

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Showtime

• What: Bravo presents the Glenn Miller Orchestra

• When: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 12

• Where: Auburn Performing Arts Center, 700 E. Main St.

• Tickets: $18.59 regular, $16.52 student-senior. Call 253-931-3043, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or online through Brown Paper Tickets at www.auburnwa.gov/arts.

• Info: glennmillerorchestra.com

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