The musicians of the Phoenix Jazz and Swing Band of Salt Lake City range in age from 62 to 86.
All but three members are locals, said the band's event coordinator Ken Zenger. The exceptions, he said with a laugh, come from Grantsville, Lindon and Sandy.
Seriously, the 25 musicians perform every Wednesday night for those in rest homes, care centers, rehab facilities or assisted-living centers. They perform without pay. Their reward is simply sharing their love of music with those who often miss the sounds of the Big Band era.
The Tribune posed a few questions to Zenger about the band. The retired teacher answered in longhand. His comments have been edited slightly for space.
How did the band originate?
The band came out of a lunch meeting of several former players who had been playing locally and wanted to maintain the music that had been such an important part of their lives. Plus, they loved the fellowship of musicians and their attitude.
Why did you join?
The love of the music of the '30s, '40s and '50s prompted me to join and give it my emotional energy. I loved this music growing up, and bringing its flavor to old and young is a service I relish. Likewise, members of the band still have the love and memories of their years with bands of the past, and they too love reliving memories.
What kind of response do you get?
Most members of the audiences we play for are retirees and this is the music of their generations. Thus they smile a lot, tap their feet, mouth the words, snap their fingers, and some gyrate. One manager said she couldn't get her people to stop swinging and discussing their evening so they could go to their units for bedtime and lights out.
What are some of your most memorable moments?
At some gigs several listeners will come up and ask questions about the band. Several times listeners will get a partner and dance with an energy you wouldn't expect from their age group.
What is it about that era of music that inspires you?
The '30s, '40s and '50s were days of various memories and changes in America's history mostly good times. Even during the '30s, great and memorable songs kept Americans in a happy and hopeful mood. As the band and I perform, we can't help but recall that special song or instrumental that became a favorite back then; and each time that special number comes up, its memory transits to the other numbers. The music of the '30s, '40s and '50s was and is the fabric that made America. It continues to provide moments of nostalgia and enhances our energy for a time or two, and some renews the spirit.
What do you love about the band?
The members of the band play without pay. They love their music and are willing to donate their time (sometimes every Wednesday for a month or two in a row) for the enjoyment of those who love this special kind of music. We also want to bring that era of music to younger listeners. We truly love our job.
Call Ken Zenger at 801-244-6583 to find out more about the band and to request future engagements.