Big band music lovers from all over the U.S. and from the other side of the planet are gathering in southwest Iowa today (Thursday) through the weekend for the Glenn Miller Festival.
Clarinda was the famed band leader’s hometown and thousands will hear eight big bands pay tribute to Miller’s swing-era tunes. Arlene Leonard of the Glenn Miller Birthplace Society says one band called The Jazz Kids is coming from Switzerland, one of three bands from abroad. There’s also the Tamana Girls High School Band from Tamana, Japan, while the Swing Kids range in age from nine to 16 and Leonard says the youngest member, a trumpet player, is “out of this world.”
Events are underway in tiny Clarinda all through the weekend, including picnics, dances and lots of big band concerts, but Leonard says there’s much to be seen there, in addition to Miller’s house. There are two big archives displays in the high school in addition to a big exhibit at the town’s musuem.
While Miller died during World War Two, more than six decades ago, Leonard notes his memory and that music is still very much alive and loved. She says when you think of the big bands from his era like Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and the others, the Glenn Miller Orchestra is the only one that continues to tour some 300 days a year, which says a lot about the popularity of the music and about Miller as a person.
Leonard notes Miller gave up his civilian celebrity lifestyle to join the military and of the 70 people in the band, he was the only one who didn’t come home. The festival runs through Sunday. For more details, swing on to the website “www.glennmiller.org.”
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Glenn Miller Festival