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NCTC announces third annual Swing School

by Pamela VanHook | May 10, 2012 <p> </p>

GAINESVILLE, TEXAS - "Deep within my heart lies a melody…" Young musicians who get excited when they hear the unique sounds that go along with these famous song lyrics will head for North Central Texas College again this summer for the third annual Big Texas Swing School.

Set for July 17-21 on the NCTC Gainesville campus, the school is organized and run by four-time Grammy nominee Dave Alexander, widely regarded as one of the country's foremost western swing performers.Swing School group

"There are still a few openings for participants," Alexander said, "but they will fill quickly, and I urge those interested to act quickly to secure a spot."

This unique summer program offers musicians age 12 to 17 the opportunity to learn the finer points of playing this special brand of music from Alexander and other seasoned pros.

As a recording artist and leader of his own Big Texas Swing Band, Alexander said he's proud to be carrying on the tradition established by the most famous western swingers of them all-Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.

"Bob Wills definitely invented a unique sound and brand of music that has retained its popularity since the 1930s," Alexander said. "It's a combination of traditional country, big band swing and jazz, and to perform it well requires a fairly high level of musicianship and lots of practice."

"Giving students the opportunity to hone their musical skills and practice under the guidance of professionals is what the swing school is all about. And we'll have a place for students of just about all levels of talent, ability and experience."

The school is open to all students who play a musical instrument or sing, know the basics of reading music and are excited about the many disciplines of Western swing, Alexander added.

Participants will be housed on campus in one of the NCTC residence halls under 24-hour supervision of school organizers, and classes will be conducted in the modern rehearsal halls and on the main stage of the college's First State Bank Center for the Performing Arts.

"It's an absolutely ideal venue for both learning and performing," Alexander said, "and we think it adds another special dimension to the quality of the experience we're offering to our young musicians."

School organizer Alexander is a graduate of the University of North Texas and former member of UNT's famed One O'Clock Lab Band. He was for some time the music director for the Dallas Cowboys, is an inductee into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame and 2004 Academy of Western Artists "Male Vocalist of the Year." He has recorded and performed with a long list of greats from Asleep at the Wheel to George Strait.

In coming up with the idea for the swing school, Alexander said he envisioned it as something that would go far beyond the normal "band camp."

"This is not only because of the unique type of music and instrumentation involved," he said, "but also because of the caliber of the instructors the participants will be learning from, all of them true professionals."

Alexander added that the school's unique curriculum seats the equivalent of a limited number of swing bands including fiddles, bass and lead guitars, bass fiddle, drums, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, saxophone, banjo, mandolin, steel guitar, piano and vocalists.

"We'll also emphasize the experience of actually playing in a swing band and the magic that happens when expression and improvisation are encouraged," he said.

Swing School participants also will learn from guest artists and speakers and enjoy a program of evening activities in addition to documentaries, videos, Bob Wills movies, discussions and jam sessions.

"I suppose you could say western swing is part of my DNA," Alexander said. "My dad played trombone and some trumpet with Johnnie Lee Wills, and sometimes he and the rest of Johnnie Lee's horn section would go on the road with Bob Wills himself.

"I have been fortunate to have traveled my own music road and to be enjoying it to this day. I am honored and thrilled to be sharing what I've learned about this great American music form, western swing, with young musicians."

The Big Texas Swing School will conclude with a Saturday Awards Concert on July 21. This "Grand Concert" is open to the public, providing an opportunity for students to perform for an audience and to be recognized for their achievements.

To learn more about the cost of participation, how to enroll and for other information, go online to www.bigtexasswingschool.com or call 214-564-7528.