Enjoy a nostalgic Sunday afternoon: Big Band comes to Hobson

Special to the News-Argus

John Gemberling (left) and Beth Britton clown around during the Black Tie and Blue Jeans fundraiser for the Great Falls Symphony.

Photo courtesy of John Gemberling






Judith Arts Society welcomes John Gemberling and his Jazzin’ Dance Band this Sunday at the Hobson School multipurpose room. The afternoon of familiar old favorites and entertaining new arrangements begins at 4 p.m. The band plays a wide range of music, from the swing era to today, including James Brown.

JAS folks may remember Gemberling from the Arts Society’s first concert of this season. John joined the Peter Wilson Trio in Utica for Pub Night. He is an amazing trumpet player; in fact, he is the principal trumpet in the Great Falls Symphony. Many of his band musicians also play in the symphony; however, this status is not a prerequisite for playing in the dance band.

“These are professionals with scads of experience,” John said last fall, “many of whom wanted to pick up second instruments.

“It’s a hodgepodge of musicians, so it’s kind of a juggling act,” he added.

The musicians’ goals through the jazz band are to have fun but to challenge themselves. The fun they are having will be evident Sunday afternoon in Hobson. They strive to share their fun with their audience, hoping to give everyone a taste of familiarity while at the same time introducing listeners to a new experience.

“Something for everybody,” Gemberling said.

Their hope is to get folks out of their seats and into each other’s arms on the makeshift dance floor.

Vocalist Beth Britton will add her pipes to the music for a few songs. A journalism teacher at CMR High School in Great Falls, she started her singing career with the “Hokey Pokey.” It seems she had always wanted to sing in front of a big band, and Gemberling gave her the chance during a summer concert at Centene Stadium about four summers ago. Since then she has joined the dance band for some of their gigs.

Britton is also a member of the Great Falls Symphony; she plays bass.

The Symphony is obviously a major connection for the Jazzin’ Dance Band. In addition to many of the band’s musicians being Symphony members, Misty Annala, one of the Judith Arts Society board members, is a member of the Symphony as well. She thought the band would prove a great concert for the JAS 2017-2018 Performing Arts Season.

Annala first enjoyed the sounds of the band at a Symphony fundraiser, Black Tie and Blue Jeans. The band has since played a second time for this very popular Great Falls event.

In October 2016, they were also hired by the Geyser Community Hall Club to show Geyser folks the Club’s appreciation for their support of the hall foundation project. The evening at the Geyser Community Hall was reminiscent of by-gone days and much enjoyed by invited guests, both young and old.

A Great Falls native, Gemberling holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Montana State University Bozeman and a Masters of music education from Northern Michigan University in Marquette. In addition to his musical endeavors, he is the stage manager for the Mansfield Center for the Performing Arts.

The University of Great Falls hired him nine years ago to direct the school’s jazz ensemble. The University no longer offers a music major, however; consequently, Gemberling’s search for musicians led him to the community.

He has since put together a community-based orchestra, people looking for a musical outlet, he said. His concert band is made up of 50-60 people. He encourages students to join, but their membership is not necessary.

He noted the musicians’ ages range from 16 to 80.

The concert band offers two concerts per year, one in the fall and the other in the spring. Other than these two gigs, the members meet on Monday nights at the school for a couple of hours of pure music enjoyment.

The jazz band is an offshoot of the concert band. It will bring to Hobson 18 musicians as well as vocalist Britton. Plan to attend; the afternoon should prove to be nostalgic and “big” fun.

Admission is by season ticket or at the door. Students are free and encouraged to come.


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