2018-01-01 / Arts & Entertainment

Naples Big Band is on a mission of entertainment and education

By D.K. Christi

Soloist Amy Bright with the Naples Big Band. Soloist Amy Bright with the Naples Big Band. During the Roaring ‘20s, the Great Depression and following World War II, big bands helped people relax, dance and have a good time even when the world around them was in chaos. Naples Big Band offers the same experience.

Cambier Park in Naples can provide an afternoon or evening of sheer relaxation in the outdoors. Recently, a cross section of all ages enjoyed a couple of hours of the big band sound – of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra.

According to Amy Bright, the female soloist and spokeswoman for the 12-member Naples Big Band, “We have a dual mission: to promote, preserve and perform American big band music and to financially support music education in area schools.”

“We are a portal back in time to the age when live music was at its peak,” said Bright. “Performances are not just concerts, but are choreographed to entertain.” Onstage, Bright wears gowns and gloves like the female soloists of the past. She was also mistress of ceremonies until Todd Irby recently filled that volunteer position. Irby is a comedian, actor and speaker.

Irby joins a band led by music director Jim Castaldi, who picked up his first trumpet at the age of 10 in Woonsocket, R.I. He holds a master’s of music in music education from Boston University’s College of Fine Arts.

Castaldi demonstrates musical excellence in his conducting style as leader of the Naples Big Band and in his performances on trumpet or flugelhorn with other area bands.

No fee is charged for the performances and the talented musicians volunteer, but a bucket is passed during intermission to support logistical costs and the band’s mission to support local high school bands. “At the end of each season after the bills are paid, the balance is turned over to a selected high school for their band’s use,” said Bright. They are always in need of the extra financial support, Bright said, as music programs often are the first cuts made in school budgets.

The Naples Big Band wants to support young musicians and an appreciation of music that preceded electronic enhancements. “Those were the days when beautiful imperfections were not electronically erased and every performance was live,” said Bright. Some talented high school and college students play in the band.

Sponsors make the greatest difference in the band meeting its goals. “We’re open to sponsor ideas,” said Bright. Individuals are welcome to sponsor a performance to celebrate an event or honor a person.

See naplesbigband.com for the schedule of events including other locations (Bonita Springs), sponsorships and donation information or call 239-777-0416.

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