BY SUSAN SCAFFIDI Contributing writer
The people at the Kern County Museum and Bakersfield Jazz Workshop think they can coax you off your couch for an evening of music and dancing.
Called Swingtime Under the Stars, the event is an experiment to see if residents will support an old-fashioned evening of big band dance music on the museum's bandstand green. Museum director Randall Hayes said it was an idea whose time had come.
Swingtime Under the Stars
Where: Kern County Museum
When: 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday; dance lessons at 7 p.m.
"We just thought it would be fun to have on a Saturday night," Hayes said. "And we teamed up with the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop and decided to do it."
"I've done swingtime concerts in other cities," Hayes said. "There are a lot of jazz concerts here, but nobody does swing music concerts."
"We want to get people to get in the habit of just getting out of the house and doing something fun," Hayes said.
Swingtime Under the Stars will feature the Bakersfield Swingtime Orchestra, a group of local professionals who are also associated with the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop. Director Steve Eisen said the band will start as a seven--piece ensemble.
"This is our debut," Eisen said. "As the event grows, we will become a big orchestra."
The band's playlist reads like a juke box of swing-era hits, including "In the Mood," "Tuxedo Junction," "Jersey Bounce" and many other tunes made famous by Glenn Miller, the Dorsey Brothers, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and others.
"The idea is to really try to get the community back into swing," Eisen said. "We're going to be doing swing, but we will do the occasional waltz."
For those who are uncertain about their swing dancing skills, Shari Fortino of Debonair Dancers will give a dance lesson at 7 p.m.
Hayes is inviting whole families to bring picnics, plus chairs or blankets for seating, sit back and enjoy the music. Or, get up and dance.
"My experience is little kids love swing music -- they hear it and just dance up a storm," Hayes said. "Seniors love it, too."
Hayes also said there's no catch.
"Everything has gotten to be a fundraiser these days," he said, adding there won't be any kind of solicitation for money beyond the admission ticket. "We view this as a sort of 'friend-raiser.'
"Are we crazy?"
Hayes said the ticket price of $10, which is the museum's standard admission, will be split between the museum and the jazz workshop. Eisen said the workshop's share of the money will pay the musicians a reduced fee and the rest will go to the workshop's scholarship fund for music students. Both Hayes and Eisen hope the event will grow.
"If it works, we're going to start doing more of these types of events," Hayes said.
"We hope to be out there every month," Eisen said.