SPRING HILL — Lorri Hafer's affinity for big band music goes back as far as she can remember.
That's understandable. Her mom, Mary Mayo, spent time singing with the postwar Glenn Miller Orchestra, under the direction of Tex Beneke. Her dad, Al Ham, was the ensemble's music arranger.
So when Hafer sings classics such as Sentimental Journey, When I Fall in Love and I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, as she will do this weekend as part of the Hernando Symphony Orchestra's "Salute to the Big Bands" concert series, there's a personal connection.
"The music simply tugs at your heart," said Hafer, 56. "It's nostalgic. And it's so much fun to sing."
The Spring Hill vocalist is no stranger to Central Florida's music scene. Along with her husband, Mike, on piano and their son, Paul, on upright bass, Hafer has performed at area venues in a variety of musical combinations, with repertoires ranging from pop and big band to jazz and gospel.
However, big band continues to be the favorite genre of Hafer, who is a regular host on Music of Your Life, a satellite-delivered radio program that was launched in 1978 by her father.
"People know these songs like the back of their hand," Hafer said.
Hafer has been singing professionally more or less her entire life. Her first recording came at age 5, when she appeared as a guest vocalist on Guy Mitchell's crooner If You Ever Go Away. As part of the folk-pop group the Hillside Singers — which also included her mother — she scored a huge hit with I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing, a song that remains in Hafer's repertoire.
In 2004, Hafer took an even larger step into the professional ranks when she, her husband and son accepted an invitation to star in the Music of Your Life show hosted by Les Brown's Band of Renown in a 500-seat auditorium in Branson, Mo.
Performing with a full symphonic backing, however, is something relatively new to the singer.
"My first time singing with a complete orchestra was a Christmas concert with the Richey Community Orchestra," Hafer said. "It was different than other situations I'd performed in because they use arrangements that are pretty locked in. You have to stay on top of it …, or you can get messed up."
This weekend's concerts mark Hafer's first time signing with the Hernando Symphony, under the direction of Wayne Raymond. And because she is well-versed in every one of the seven songs she is set to perform, there's a comfort factor that she says makes the experience irresistible.
"Everyone in the orchestra has seemed to have had a good time because it's music that symphony musicians don't often get to perform," Hafer said. "I think the audience, no matter what age, they are simply going to love the show."
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.