The ballroom teams up with a local orchestra for an evening of jazz — The Kenyon Collegian
On the exceptionally warm evening of November 5, jazz fans young and old flocked to Mount Vernon’s Woodward Opera House for a concert titled “Jumpin’ at the Woodward” by the Knox Community Jazz Orchestra and a lesson in dance from the Kenyon College Ballroom Dance Club. The event was a resounding success, prompting many spectators to join in the dancing while enjoying the talents of the orchestra.
The Knox Community Jazz Orchestra, which was established in 2016, is proud to bring classic and contemporary big band jazz to the community. At this performance, the band played a mix of longer jazz compositions and dance songs, allowing Kenyon’s Ballroom Dance Club to teach swing and rumba to interested attendees. The club, which was founded in 1998 to provide an outlet for Kenyon students who “love to dance” (according to one college student October article of that year), teaches tango, waltz, foxtrot and many other dances to interested students.
There was a lot of interest in the dance lesson. Club President Zoe Miller ’23 started with the basics of the swing, and club members remained available to provide additional guidance for those who needed it. The crowd was full of fast learners, and soon the dance floor was filled with couples dancing to the orchestra’s jovial renditions of standards such as Glenn Miller’s “String of Pearls” and “Take the ‘A’ Train.” by Duke Ellington. Later in the evening, the Ballroom Dance Club returned to the floor to teach rhumba, a slower dance that has its roots in Afro-Cuban rhythms and culture. The change of style proved as popular as the original swing lesson, and many couples returned to the floor to master the dance’s simple box step. About the lessons, Miller wrote in an email to college student, “Getting into an audience to learn a dance is quite daunting, so I was really excited to see so many people – both from Kenyon and Mount Vernon – were so keen to jump in and learn something new. ! Their enthusiasm and willingness to learn made the event so lively and fun! I really hope this is something we can do again in the future.
The dance was punctuated by numerous sets of group-only features showing off the musical prowess of the Knox Community Jazz Orchestra. The orchestra played many instrumental tunes such as “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” by Count Basie (hence the name of the event) and “Love Beams” by Mark Taylor. The concert included some vocal jazz classics featuring the orchestra’s vocalist, Amanda Mayville. George Gershwin’s “A Foggy Day” and Nat King Cole’s “Almost Like Being In Love” were particularly popular performances with audiences.
The concert brought together the communities of Kenyon and greater Knox County, as many of the band members were current or former music teachers spanning elementary, secondary and college education. Among these members were John B. McCoy-Banc One Distinguished Teaching Professor of Music Dane Heuchemer, director of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, and Ted Buehrer, music teacher and director of the Kenyon Jazz Ensemble. In addition to members of the Kenyon community on stage and in the Ballroom Dance Club, the audience was made up in part of students who had traveled from Gambier to Mount Vernon to hear the music.
Overall, the evening was an example of one of the many ways Kenyon students can participate in the surrounding community. Attendees left with a smile on their faces, having learned something new while enjoying the music and reconnecting with friends and neighbors. Although stereotypes of “small town living” pervade discussions of our rural corner of Ohio, the concert embodied the most positive attributes of small town living.