SPRING HILL — At the height of its popularity, big-band music fascinated millions. You couldn't turn on a radio without hearing the orchestras of Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers, Glenn Miller or Duke Ellington pump out smooth, sweet melodies.
Although time has turned the music into a fading memory for many people, preservation groups like the Hernando Jazz Society have ensured that the big-band era never completely dies.
The society will kick off its 17th season Sunday with its annual "Big Band Bash" at the Wellington Clubhouse. The event will feature a nine-piece ensemble performing nostalgic tunes like Satin Doll, Take the "A" Train and Woodchopper's Ball.
Club president Ed Lawrence said the Jazz Society continues to be the area's strongest supporter of big-band and jazz music. It sponsors monthly concerts and showcases that feature local musicians, several of whom made their living playing in professional ensembles.
Lawrence, a jazz singer himself, said the primary mission of the organization is to promote jazz and big-band music and spread its appeal to younger audiences. Through the years, the society has earned numerous accolades for its support of programs that help fund the purchase of instruments and lessons for aspiring musicians.
"It warms your heart to see young musicians enjoying playing what you love," Lawrence said. "We work hard to encourage them to keep wanting to play it. That's the only way it's going to survive."
The society's annual season opener serves not only as a membership drive but as a fundraiser for the club's scholarship program to help young musicians pay for music lessons.
Lawrence said the club handed out four full and three partial scholarships last year.
"We see it as an investment," he said. "If we can help get a young person off to a good start in music, it's well worth it."
Lawrence said Sunday's performance and dance serve as the perfect meet and greet. People do not have to be musicians to join the group — just have an appreciation for the music. Membership is $50 a year, which includes all shows. Nonmembers pay $9 for the shows. Sunday's event will include a light menu.
The society's monthly concert and dance schedule includes events at the Wellington Clubhouse on the second Sunday of each month, except for May, when the show will be on the third Sunday.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]