The school’s jazz band returns to swing standards in its ‘USO Salute to the Troops.’
by Sher Porter
photography by Rhiannon Mim
The 1940s was a time of war. World War II captured the first half of the decade; the Cold War had its start in the second half. Young men were enlisting to fight for their country. It was also the swing era, with jazz music a central part of popular culture.
On March 6, 2009, the spirit of the 1940s is rekindled at “An Evening of Jazz,” hosted by the La Verne Band Boosters Association. The annual event, which began in 1997, attracts scores of people and raises money for Bonita High School’s bands and color guard program.
Young women and men from the Bonita High School Symphonic Band dress in 1940s-style knee-length dresses and military uniforms to greet guests, sell cold drinks and post cards, and escort guests to their seats.
Students from the high school’s jazz band perform selections from the 1940s to match the theme, “USO Salute to the Troops.”
“The LVBBA hosts annual events to raise money for the BHS band department and color guard team. They need the money to pay for instructors, uniforms, trips and competitions, among other things. The Bonita Unified School District does help fund the program, but it is not enough to completely fund the program. Last year, the department received $7,000 in funding,” band parent and event publicity chair Eva Shatkin says.
As the event begins, guests are greeted with a social hour, where people have the opportunity to talk, meet and participate in more ways to help raise money for the musical cause. There are raffle tickets sold, and a silent auction. Standout raffle items include a chance to win Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game tickets, a one-hour hot tub rental, and dinner for two at Shogun and Cookie Lee jewelry. Some participate in a silent auction to bid on tickets to a Los Angeles Lakers game, a home-cooked Japanese meal or a Lake Tahoe getaway. By the end of the night, all of the items are given away.
“It was kind of nice. It shows that people are willing to give and help out in these tough times,” Cindy Kunisaki, co-chairwoman for the evening, says.
Guests are also treated to dinner, music and a film—all before the musical portion of the event begins. As guests fill their plates with food, the Backline Quartet plays jazz in the background. The Backline Quartet is comprised of three Bonita High School students, who are a part of the band program, and one former student. When the band finishes, guests are shown a film about the USO. Although the event has nothing to do directly with the USO, it is a nice tie-in to the theme. Also, LVBBA President Kathryn Le Veque says that since most of the guests are senior citizens, they enjoy it. “It’s pure nostalgia for them,” she adds.
“We listen to jazz,” Mayor Don Kendrick says. “So this is something we look forward to.” As the first note plays, people get on their feet, eager to glide to the dance floor, directly in front of the band. Some dancers are from dance classes in Claremont and Rancho Cucamonga. They have been attending the Evening of Jazz for the past three years.
The band’s repertoire of 15 songs includes instrumental solos from the band, and vocals from the Bonita High School Chamber Singers.
When the evening is over, the LVBBA raises more than $8,000 at this sold-out event. It is truly a night to remember.