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Jazz Band's Leap Year Dance to Benefit IHS

by on February 25, 2020 5:00 AM

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County Jazz Band is hosting a Leap Year Dance, 7–9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29, to benefit Interfaith Human Services. The 16-piece band will be playing dance favorites across a range of genres, including swing, rock and big band music.

The band, which was originally founded by Fred Smith in 2005, has grown to 19 regular members, including six saxophone players, four trombone players, four trumpeters, one guitarist, one string bassist, one drummer, one pianist and the band’s leader.

“When we’re at our best, we sound pretty good,” says Ron Smith, a trombone player who’s been with the band for about 10 years.  The band welcomes musicians of all ages and types, including quite a few students from the State College Area High School jazz band.

“Often, we get some of the very best musicians from there,” says Smith.

Currently, the band’s youngest member is a 15-year-old freshman trumpeter, while the oldest is Smith himself, at 83.

The Leap Year Dance is this year’s edition of a dance hosted annually by the band, and Smith says they play a variety of songs to appeal to a wide audience.

“We play a lot of the regular music that people would dance to, from the 1940s to 2020 — a lot of old favorites, some slow [pieces], a fair number of fast pieces since that’s what young people want to dance to…,” Smith says

The band comes together to practice its repertoire of music for an hour and a half each Sunday, following the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County’s morning services. They plan to perform 25 to 30 pieces at the Leap Year Dance.

However, even if they didn’t have an upcoming event such as the Leap Year Dance, Smith estimates the band would still gather to practice their craft each Sunday.

“Even if we never played, people would still come on Sunday mornings to practice, because they just enjoy doing it. It’s an outlet more…than for us to show there’s talent in the area. People just like playing music,” he notes.

As for the event, “if it’s like it has been in the past, the people have a really good time,” Smith says. “It’s fun dancing on a nice floor, and listening to good music…The floor is maybe 50 feet long by 20 feet wide, so there’s plenty of space for people to dance. We’ve had people come from [Penn State] who are into swing dance and it’s really nice because they’re all really good dancers. We’ve had high school kids come and older people who have danced all their lives and some people who haven’t danced very much. I think they all enjoy it. It’s a good evening out.”

The band is hoping for 100 to 150 attendees, which would result in as much as $750 raised for Interfaith Human Services from ticket sales alone. Admission is $5 per adult, $3 for students and free for children 5 and under. Drinks and snacks are included.

According to Smith’s wife, Sue, one of the programs the fundraiser will support is Interfaith Human Services’ Representative Payee Program.

“It helps people who are on SSI or other kinds of disability, who get a monthly check, but they can’t manage their money. They have a counselor who helps,” she explains. “Their check goes to Interfaith and their counselor pays their bills and then gives them what’s left. We’ve had people graduate from the program, they’ve gotten so good at [managing their finances] themselves. Interfaith is the only agency who does [something like it].”

Additional donations will be accepted at the Leap Year Dance, which takes place at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County, 780 Waupelani Drive, State College.

Holly Riddle is a freelance food, lifestyle and entertainment writer. She can be reached at [email protected]
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