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Our history is spelled out below, year
by year. Click on any numbered link below to go directly to a
Or, you can also print a PDF of any single year by clicking on
the Adobe PDF icons.
For a "Year in Review" summary
of our first six years, click on any of the following:
(for this year only)
After more than three years of managing
and playing in a Baltimore-based big band, trumpet player Rob
Leonard decided it was time to step out and start his own swing
orchestra. Rob wanted to do things a little differently from
what he was accustomed to with his former group. He wanted to
charge a lower fee to customers and audiences, so more people
could enjoy the great music of the swing era; he wanted to compensate
his band members more generously than what he was accustomed
to receiving as a side man; and he wanted to search for, and
acquire, musical arrangements that more closely resembled the
originals, written during the great American swing era. He also
wanted to have a band that didn't try to be all things to all
people; rather, his band was going specialize in one thing --
big band music.
To Rob, the clear and sensible
way to start a new band was to attract the finest musicians available.
One element of the classic big bands that defined the swing era
to Rob was a great, versatile, dynamic vocalist. Teresa Piermatteo,
a Pennsylvania native, had been singing with the other group
for about six months. In Rob's opinion, she wasn't getting the
best charts or the spotlight she deserved, considering her talent.
Teresa was the first official member of Rob's new band. The two
then invited other musicians from their former band to join the
new venture. Trumpet players Scott Stansfield and Randy VanEpps,
and drummer Steve Conaway, quickly signed on. Rob also tried
to pry saxophonist George Wright from the other band, but George's
loyalty to the group kept him from joining Rob's band full-time.
The new band members convinced
Rob that his band would soon boast 18 great musicians from the
Baltimore, Washington DC, Virginia, and Pennsylvania area. The
band's first rehearsal took place at a dance club in Annapolis,
MD called Club Hollywood. Eight musicians showed up, including
Craig Fager, who would go on to become the lead trombone player
in the new band. Rob was concerned with the low turnout for rehearsal,
especially since, in his confidence that his new orchestra would
be a tremendous success, he had already booked the band's first
job for June -- just two months away. Believing that the Annapolis
site was not central enough geographically to attract the caliber
of musicians he sought, Rob contracted with a small church in
Ellicott City, MD for rehearsal space. The new location was closer
to Baltimore, and easier to get to from Washington DC and Northern
Virginia. One week later, at the second rehearsal, the band comprised
a dozen members.
By now, traveled musicians such
as Chris Poole, Andrew Mitroff, Frank Thibeault, and John Pritchett
had joined the group, which was at this time still without a
name. Additional musicians that Rob had performed with joined
as well, including trombonist Todd Clontz, trumpet players Mark
Kelly and John Wagner, and guitarist Jason Marsheck. Other players
followed, including tenor saxophonist Geoff Stewart and trombonist
Gretchen Hopper. In preparation for the first job, now less than
two months away, the band read down more than 75 charts over
the course of the next two rehearsals, discarding the arrangements
they didn't like, and keeping the best of the bunch. By the end
of April, the band's first client needed a contract for the June
performance. Rob was asked what name was to appear on the billing.
In a phone conversation, he thought quickly about a name, a logo,
and a possible theme song. He also recalled his favorite bandleader,
Glenn Miller, once saying, "A band should have a personality
all its own." With this in mind, Rob concluded that his
band should be associated with something special -- something
that is so rare that it only happens once in a blue moon. And
thus, with confidence, he told his client, "Our name is
Blue Moon Big Band."
On May 1, 1998, Rob officially
established the band, depositing $500 into a checking account
at a local bank. With design help from childhood friend and artist
Tommy D'Aquino, Rob created the Blue Moon Big Band logo -- a
caricature moon playing a trumpet through moon beams. The band
has never changed its logo.
Rob wanted to start the band
out right, so he took out a second mortgage on his newly built
home in Carroll County, MD, in order to buy sound equipment,
music stands with the band's logo, and approximately 300 new
music arrangements. Before the band took the stage for its first
performance, Rob had sunk the extent of his personal savings
into his new venture. The investment would eventually pay off.
The band was a tremendous success,
and the performance schedule quickly filled with engagements.
County fairs, dances, and in August, the band's first wedding
reception. Musicians came and went during the first several months.
Frank Thibeault left the group due to the demanding schedule
of outside performances, which opened the door for tenor saxophonist
Brendan Carniaux to join the group. Shortly afterwards, a seasoned
pianist from Virginia named Dave Witherspoon joined, and Geoff
Stewart left the sax section due to an overly demanding work
schedule. Jason Marsheck was forced to leave the group as well,
due to health concerns. Shannon Loy stepped in to fill the newly
vacated tenor sax chair and Craig Brackins, a Tennessee native
who grew up on bluegrass music, joined as the new guitarist.
At about the same time, bassist Kevin Taylor joined the band.
By the Fall of 1998, Blue Moon Big Band had earned a small following
in the greater Baltimore area. Rob's next goal was to break into
the Washington DC swing market, where several talented bands
had been performing for years.
At an October 30 masquerade
ball at the historic Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo, just outside
of Washington DC, Blue Moon played to a packed house. Several
hundred dancers had to be turned away, as word of this new Baltimore-based
swing orchestra had spread. Even today, many of the band members
recall the Glen Echo performance, where the Blue Moon dance was
ranked as the area's #1 Lindy event for the week, to be the most
exciting and energizing performance the band has ever had.
The final key step that Rob
felt the band needed to complete before the end of the year was
a recording, to show that the group planned to make its mark
in the Mid-Atlantic region quickly. And so, after just three
sessions at the Sound Works recording studio in nearby Hanover,
PA, Blue Moon Big Band completed its first CD, a 16-song collection
of standards, ballads, and classic swing tunes. The project was
completed on November 1, exactly 6 months to the day of the band's
official inception. Phil Piermatteo, father of the band's vocalist,
purchased the first Blue Moon Big Band CD ever sold. Following
the CD release, vocalist Teresa Piermatteo was contracted for
the first of several studio recordings for radio jingles in the
Maryland and Pennsylvania areas.
With the release of the "Things
Ain't What They Used to Be" CD, Blue Moon followed with
three live television performances, including an appearance on
the now defunct "Rodricks for Breakfast" Christmas
special, filmed at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Jazz legends
Ethel Ennis and Cyrus Chestnut shared the stage with the band,
and Cyrus even sat in with the band on "The Way You Look
Tonight." After a handful of additional dances and wedding
receptions in Baltimore, Northern Virginia, and Central Maryland,
Blue Moon Big Band finished out the year with nearly a dozen
performances under its belt, and was rolling toward 1999 on a
very good note.
In 1998, the band adopted "Blue Moon" as its
closing song at performances.
(for this year only)
The band kicked off 1999 with a series
of performances in Baltimore with Chuck Alexander's Friday Night
Swing Dance Club, a partnership that would continue over the
course of the next year and a half, where dancers poured out
month after month to see and hear Baltimore's newest swing band.
In April, Blue Moon got its first "big job" when a
worldwide medical company out of Florida hired them for its annual
awards dinner at the newly constructed Baltimore Convention Center,
just across the street from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The
band entertained an audience of more than 3,000 and shared the
stage with television's Roy Firestone as the featured acts.
Blue Moon continued to take
jobs for corporate events, wedding receptions, and dances. Two
churches contracted the group for annual fund-raiser dances,
Mt. Hebron Presbyterian Church in Ellicott City, MD, and St.
John the Baptist Catholic Church in New Freedom, PA. The band
continued to play every Spring at both churches for several years
thereafter. More wedding receptions, wine festivals, and private
parties would follow, and the band would play more than two dozen
events throughout the course of the year.
The band had been receiving
a fair amount of air time on local radio stations, primarily
an AM station in Baltimore, WLG Legends Radio. But, on February
23, 1999, Blue Moon Big Band received its first national recognition
via the airwaves when its vocal arrangement of Gershwin's "Somebody
Loves Me," from the band's first CD, was played as part
of a big band and jazz segment on National Public Radio's "Swinging
Down the Lane." The song opened the hour-long broadcast,
which also included music from Tony Bennet, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy,
and the Eddie Reed Big Band, was aired on over 40 radio stations,
With the departure of Mark Kelly
from the trumpet section and an opening in the trombone line,
Tom Jackson and Chris "Moose" Skowronski joined the
band. Bassist Gary Richardson also joined the band, replacing
David Sayen who spent a short time with the group prior to moving
to California. Early in the year, the band also teamed up with
the Pennsylvania-based Colgan Brothers Band, led by Pat Colgan,
Blue Moon's studio producer. Joining Blue Moon on several occasions
throughout the Winter and Spring, the CBB, a classic rock band
by trade, added a new sound and style to the Blue Moon repertoire.
During the Summer of 1999, Blue
Moon Big Band recorded its second CD, this time a live recording
taped during a dance festival in Salisbury, MD. With 18 tracks,
the new CD, "Blue Moon Big Band Swingin' Live!"
offered a raw, live side of the band that conveyed the energy
and excitement the band members had for the music they played.
Several of the band members wrote off the second recording, though,
believing it lacked the polished, high-intensity sound that had
made the band so popular. Nonetheless, the recording sold well
and Blue Moon Big Band now had two CDs under its belt.
In September, bandleader Rob
Leonard and vocalist Teresa Piermatteo were married at the Valencia
Ballroom in York, PA, and the natural choice for entertainment
was Blue Moon Big Band. The band dazzled the wedding guests for
four hours, performing on the same stage as legends such as Benny
Goodman, Harry James, the Dorsey Brothers and Glenn Miller. In
fact, it was the very stage where Glenn Miller told his band
members in 1937, on New Year's Eve, that he was dissolving his
orchestra. Of course, the legendary bandleader re-formed the
Glenn Miller Orchestra just months later, after finding that
classic "Miller sound."
Rob Leonard was hearing more
and more throughout the year that potential clients loved the
big band look and sound of Blue Moon, but often could not fit
the 19-piece band in certain venues. In response, Rob formed
Li'l Bit of Blue, Blue Moon's partner ensemble. Comprising a
four-piece rhythm section and reed player Andrew Mitroff at the
front, Li'l Bit of Blue would soon become as popular as the full
In 1999, the band adopted "The Party's Over"
as its closing song at performances.
(for this year only)
In 2000, Leonard's bands played nearly
every weekend from March through the end of the year. By now,
both Blue Moon Big Band and Li'l Bit of Blue had become highly
sought-after wedding and dance bands. In addition to playing
at venues such as the York Country Club in Pennsylvania, Baltimore's
Pimlico Race Track, and the Glen Echo Spanish Ballroom several
times each throughout the course of the year, Blue Moon had earned
a strong following of swing dancers.
Among them was John "Psychoboy" McCalla, the owner
of a Maryland construction company who was known throughout the
area as the most energetic dancer on the floor. Psychoboy just
wanted to dance, and he latched onto the straight-ahead style
of Blue Moon. Soon, the band and the dancer would hook up, with
Psychoboy giving hour-long dance lessons and then Blue Moon swinging
the night away. The relationship was a hit from the start, and
the two would work together on a handful of occasions by the
end of the year. A year later, Psychoboy and his partner, Heather
"The Feather" Coyne, were named the 2001 American Lindy
On May 9, the band was once again spotlighted on the NPR program,
"Swingin' Down the Lane." This time, host and
producer David Miller selected Blue Moon's version of "Caravan",
which joined a line-up of music from Natalie Cole, The Airmen
of Note, The Ray Anthony Orchestra, and the BBC Big Band.
In October, the members of Blue
Moon decided it was time to take a cut at hosting their own dance.
And so, with a full moon on Friday the 13th, Blue Moon Big Band
filled the 6,000 square foot dance floor at the Towson American
Legion Post 22. Joining the band once again was the Colgan Brothers
Band from Pennsylvania. Teaming with Teresa Leonard on a handful
of classic vocal quartets, the CBB was a tremendous hit with
the dance audience. Each of the singers also performed a few
solo tunes with the band, bringing a new dimension to the music
of Blue Moon Big Band.
At about the same time, drummer
Marty Knepp joined the band, bringing a new feel and energy to
Blue Moon's rhythm section that the band had been seeking since
its beginning. Straight-ahead on the standards and grooving on
the West Coast charts, Knepp completed a rhythm section that
would become the staple of the band's driving sound. Shortly
after, saxophonist Steve Szyjka, a music student at Towson University
in Baltimore, auditioned with the band and stepped in as the
new lead tenor player, a tough role to fill considering the talent
that filled the other chairs in the sax section -- a section
that had at times been referred to as the "sweetest sounding
sax section on the east coast."
In 2000, the band adopted "Two O'clock Jump"
as its closing song at performances.
(for this year only)
In February 2001, Blue Moon hosted its
second event in Towson, "A Valentine's Weekend Swing Dance."
It was the final Blue Moon Big Band performance for bassist Gary
Richardson and tenor saxophonist Shannon Loy, who each had decided
to cut back on their schedules. A few weeks later, drummer Marty
Knepp invited Roland Dorsey, a bass player from Abingdon, MD,
to sit in at a rehearsal. Dorsey's feel for the music was an
instant fit to the Blue Moon sound, and he joined the band that
evening. With the departure of Loy on tenor sax, Geoff Stewart
rejoined the band the same week.
The band performed at about
a half dozen venues during the first two months of 2001. During
the stretch, bandleader Rob Leonard had been continuously approached
with inquiries as to why he no longer played with the band, and
instead only served as bandleader and master of ceremonies. Finally
giving in to the audiences' requests and the coaxing of a handful
of the band's members, he picked up his trumpet and stepped in
front of the group as a soloist for the first time in nearly
three years, at the band's annual dance at St. John the Baptist
Catholic Church in mid-April. The bandleader's first appearance
as trumpet player since June 1998 was highlighted with solos
on Gene Krupa's "Boogie Blues," Glenn Miller's
"In the Mood," and the band's penultimate closer,
"Two O'clock Jump."
One of the most frustrating
things for Blue Moon's bandleader was the difficulty in finding
good arrangements of certain songs. Then he found Myles Collins,
a band leader and arranger in Kent, England. Rob ordered a vocal
arrangement of "Bei Mir Bist Du Shoen" -- not
just any arrangement, though. He wanted the arrangement that
the Benny Goodman Orchestra and Martha Tilton performed at Carnegie
Hall in 1938 during the famed concert that forever changed American
jazz. Collins' arrangement was perfect, note for note, and soon
Blue Moon Big Band was increasing its library once again with
titles such as "Route 66," "Stuff Like That
There," "Straighten Up and Fly Right," and
other wonderful Collins arrangements. By the end of the year,
the band had added nearly two dozen charts from the England-based
Blue Moon's partner ensemble,
Li'l Bit of Blue, was still growing in popularity in the Washington
DC / Baltimore area, and had put several wedding receptions on
the Spring and Summer calendar. During the last weekend of April,
vocalist Teresa Leonard appeared with the quintet for the first
time, adding a new dimension to the already successful all-star
ensemble, which now included David Cosby on guitar, Eric Byrd
on piano, Gary Richardson on bass, Marty Knepp on drums, and
original member Andrew Mitroff on reed and flute.
On May 1, Blue Moon Big Band
celebrated the beginning of its fourth year since its humble
beginnings in 1998.
Early in August, bandleader Rob Leonard and vocalist Teresa Leonard
traveled to London to meet Myles Collins, the music arranger
with whom they had been conducting business over the past several
months. It was the first time meeting in person, as all business
had previously been worked out via email and the Internet. At
Pepy's Bar, near the Tower of London, Rob and Teresa finally
met Myles, a perfumer by trade. During the meeting, Myles delivered
his latest arrangement for the band, the Latin classic "Sway,"
which was ironically played over the bar's soundtrack just
minutes after the exchange!
In September, Towson University music major Katie Grimm joined
Blue Moon's sax section on tenor. A month later, on October 13,
Blue Moon Big Band teamed up once again with The Colgan Brothers
Band, this time for a "Rock & Swing Into the Night"
concert at the 700+ seat amphitheater at the Hagerstown Community
College in Maryland. The two bands shared the same stage for
four non-stop hours of classic rock and big band music.
On December 7, the band released its third recording, "Nice
Work if You Can Get It," a 20-song collection of swing,
blues, and big band tunes. The band sold nearly 300 copies by
In 2001, the band adopted Glenn Miller's "Adios"
as its closing song at performances.
(for this year only)
The year started off with bandleader
Rob Leonard adding nearly 100 new arrangements to the Blue Moon
Big Band repertoire, many courtesy of arranger Myles Collins,
in response to audiences' requests for more up-tempo vocal charts
for singer Teresa Leonard.
May was a particularly big month for the band, as the group was
featured on a one-hour broadcast of National Public Radio's "Swingin'
Down the Lane" program, which aired across the country on
over 40 radio stations throughout the week of May 13. By the
end of June, more than 50 U.S. radio stations had aired music
from Blue Moon Big Band.
As a result of the radio airings and the popularity of the "Nice
Work if You Can Get It" CD, orders for the new recording
continued to come in throughout the first half of the year. By
July 1, Blue Moon Big Band had customers in 49 of the 50 U.S.
states (only Colorado was without a Blue Moon recording), and
in 9 international territories, including Australia, Canada,
England, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Russia, and Spain.
In early August, trombonist Gretchen Hopper moved to Cincinnati,
OH to pursue a doctorate degree in music. The newly vacated chair
was quickly filled by territory music veteran Bob Jordan.
On November 2, the band made its New York City debut as the headline
performer at the Swing 46 Jazz & Supper Club. As reported
by the club's manager, Blue Moon's performance drew the largest
audience in club history, with dancers and dining guests packed
wall to wall. Responding to roars for encore numbers at the conclusion
of the performance, the band enjoyed several minutes of standing
ovations and a roar of approval that carried out to the streets
of Manhattan. The performance marked trumpet player Tom Jackson's
final appearance with the band, as he had made the decision to
start up his own jazz quartet. Josh Hillard, a Pennsylvania native,
stepped in to fill the newly vacated spot in the trumpet section.
Sales of CDs and cassettes in New York City helped to put Blue
Moon Big Band over the mark of 2,000 total recordings sold.
In 2002, the band continued using Glenn Miller's "Adios"
as its closing song at performances.
(for this year only)
The year started out in full stride for
Blue Moon Big Band. By mid-January, the band had already contracted
engagements for every month in 2003, with the exception of November
(with nearly 20 performances on the calendar, including three
during a seven day stretch at the end of March). On some nights,
both Blue Moon and Li'l Bit of Blue were performing in the Baltimore-Washington
Blue Moon had a busy schedule lined up for Valentines' weekend,
but two events were postponed due to what was reported as the
biggest snow storm in Baltimore's history. The storm dumped approximately
30 inches of snow on the Maryland-Pennsylvania area. On Saturday,
the band had planned to entertain at a benefit dance for Jason
Marsheck, the band's original guitarist. Jason had been at the
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Washington for the
past several months fighting a tough battle against Chronic Myelogenous
Leukemia, which had advanced to lymphoid blast crisis. With the
event rescheduled twice due to heavy snowfall in the Baltimore
and surrounding areas, it was finally re-slated for February
22. The event would have marked the final performance with the
band for trumpet player Randy Van Epps, one of the group's original
members. But, with the second rescheduling, Randy was not able
to join the band on February 22. Patrick Gleason, an Army Bandsman
who had been sitting in with Blue Moon off and on for the past
year, stepped in immediately to fill the chair. The event raised
approximately $10,000 for the Marsheck family's medical fund.
On Sunday, February 16, the band had planned to team up with
long-time friends the Colgan Brothers Band for a Valentines Weekend
Rock & Swing concert at the 800-seat Eichelberger Performing
Arts Center in Hanover, PA. Similar to the 2001 event which showcased
the two bands together, each group had been scheduled to perform
music from its own repertoire and then join forces in the final
set for 4-part vocal big band songs, featuring Teresa Leonard
and the CBB vocalists (Pat Colgan, Mike Hirsh, Brian Colgan)
and then some classic rock from the CBB with 13 horns and the
added rhythm section from Blue Moon! With the inclement weather,
the event was rescheduled for March 23. The concert was to be
the final performance with the band for pianist Dave Witherspoon.
Music veteran Mark Cook stepped in to fill the spot in the rhythm
section at the concert. Following Witherspoon's departure, pianist
Clem Ehoff, who had been performing with the big band and also
the smaller ensemble off and on for the past few years, took
over the vacant rhythm spot for Blue Moon.
Amidst all the personnel changes, bandleader Rob Leonard began
making plans for the group's fourth recording, slated as a two-CD
set of Christmas standards as well as special arrangements written
exclusively for Blue Moon Big Band. As the band read through
charts during the early part of the year, they scheduled studio
dates at Sound Works Audio Productions in Hanover, PA (production
site of the band's first three CDs), and marked early November
for release of the new project.
From June through August, the band conducted a special "winery
series" at area Pennsylvania and Maryland vineyards. Even
with a season of record rainfall, the band entertained large
audiences at sites such as Boordy Vineyards in Hydes, MD and
Naylor Wine Cellars in Stewartstown, PA. At some of the events,
Blue Moon was joined by friends Pat Colgan and Mike Hirsh for
guest vocal tunes of crowd favorites like "Mack the Knife",
"Blue Skies", "Come Fly With Me", and
"It's Only a Paper Moon", as well as duets with
the band's vocalist, Teresa Leonard, including "Makin'
Whoopee," "Unforgettable," and songs from
the upcoming Christmas recording.
In late September, the band's partner jazz ensemble, Li'l Bit
of Blue, made its first appearance at the annual Maryland Wine
Festival in Westminster, MD. The group included Andrew Mitroff
on sax, Roland Dorsey on bass, Dave Cosby on guitar, Marty Knepp
on drums, and guest vocalist Michelle Walker. That same month,
trumpet player Bobby List left the big band to pursue other interests.
His replacement was Dave Russell, a versatile player from Baltimore
who quickly established himself as a key utility player in the
section, able to play lead, solo, or whatever was necessary of
A busy spring and summer closed out with four wedding receptions
during the first two weeks of October and the final recording
sessions for Blue Moon Big Band's fourth CD, "Baby, it's
Cold Outside," which was released on December 1. Over
500 CDs and cassettes were sold by the end of the year. On December
21, the band performed its "Blue Moon Big Band & Friends:
A Swingin' Christmas Celebration" concert to a packed house
at the Eichelberger Performing Arts Center in Hanover, PA. Finally,
the year wrapped up with a monster New Year's Eve celebration
at the newly remodeled Spanish Ballroom in Glen Echo, MD, where
the band played to nearly 700 Jitterbug, Lindy Hop, and Swing
And, last but certainly not least, the band welcomed its newest
member of the family at 9:18 PM on New Year's Eve, as Emma Ann
Leonard, daughter of bandleader Rob Leonard and vocalist Teresa
Leonard, entered the world. Weighing in at 7 pounds and 15 ounces
and measuring 20 and a quarter inches in length, she came in
In 2003, the band adopted "Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive"
as its closer, and for the first time named an "official"
opener - "Deed I Do." Both songs featured vocalist
(for 2004-Present only)
A quick overview of our history from 2004
to today includes:
The reality of why our band's history
is recorded in individual years from 1998 through 2003 and then
suddenly becomes nothing more than a summarized overview from
2004 to the present is simple - as bandleader, chief marketing
officer, gig finder, and accountant, Rob Leonard found his time
suddenly focused on one very important thing since December 31,
his daughter, Emma!
That said, documentation of
each milestone and historical entry in the band's journal found
itself overshadowed by the joy of fatherhood. And so, below is
a bulleted summary of the history of Blue Moon Big Band from
2004 to the present:
CD sales soar for the December
2003 release of "Baby, it's Cold Outside."
After a two year stint with the
band, bassist Roland Dorsey leaves the group to pursue his growing
Kevin Shaner, who had been subbing
in Dorsey's place periodically since the spring of 2004, joins
the band as a full-time member.
Craig Fager, who had served as
the band's lead trombonist since its inception in 1998, makes
his last performance as a full-time member in September.
Bernie Robier, who had subbed on
bass trombone with the band from 2004 through 2005, joins the
group as a full-time member as its second (tenor) trombonist
in the fall of 2006, as Todd Clontz moves from second trombone
to the lead chair.
After playing with the group since
2004, trumpeter Mark Kelly moves to New Orleans to hit the jazz
scene (he will return in 2007 to occasionally sit in with the
Trumpet player Leroy Bamberger
joins the band.
After 4 and a half years with the
band, featured trumpet soloist Josh Hillard moves back to his
hometown of Altoona, PA, thus leaving the band.
Trumpet player Alex Drouin joins
Lead tenor saxophonist Steve Szyjka
leaves the band to pursue his college education.
Andrew Mitroff, who joined the
band as lead alto saxophonist shortly after its start-up in 1998,
hangs up his horn "permanently" (he says) to focus
on his life as a family man.
Alto saxophonist Eric Wetzel, who
subbed with the band in 2005, joins the group full time - initially
as lead tenor and then eventually moving over to lead alto.
Joe Sullivan joins the band as
a full-time member on lead tenor with the move of Eric Wetzel
Mike Hirsh, who has been singing
sporadically with the band since appearing with the band on its
2001 release of "Nice Work if You Can Get It" becomes
an "official" permanent member of the group and records
two of the 15 cuts on the band's fifth CD, "The Polar Bear's
Following the completion of recording
the band's fifth CD, trumpeter Dave Russell leaves the band due
to other work and family obligations.
With a new, Grammy award winning
engineer and producer (Luke Rohwer of Acacia Recording in Mt.
Airy, MD), Blue Moon Big Band releases its fifth CD in 9 years,
"The Polar Bear's Pajamas," which receives countrywide
acclaim from radio stations and listeners.
Original band members Rob Leonard
(bandleader), Teresa Leonard (vocalist), Scott Stansfield (trumpet),
Chris Poole (tenor and baritone saxophones), Todd Clontz (trombone),
and John Pritchett (alto saxophone) celebrate 10 years with Blue
Moon Big Band.
In April, the band answers a casting
call posting for the filming of a new motion picture starring
Renee Zellweger and Kevin Bacon, entitled My One and Only.
The movie, being filmed in Baltimore and other cities, and scheduled
for release in 2009, was to start filming in June 2008. In late
May, bandleader Rob Leonard receives a call from the casting
director's office informing him that the band has been selected
for the film. Due to filming guidelines (no females on the bandstand
in the 1950s, and so forth), the movie version of the band was
trimmed to 12 members, which was fronted by Kevin Bacon as the
bandleader. The band's filming sessions were held in late June
and early July.
In July, trumpet player Leroy Bamberger
leaves the band and is replaced by Jeremy Meeks. Mark Kelly rejoins
the band full-time.
In July, the band records its 6th
CD, "Blue Moon Big Band Caught in the Act: 10th Anniversary
Celebration Live at Naylor Wine Cellars". That same month,
as a "sign of the times," the band's recordings from
its first 5 albums as well as the solo CD from vocalist Teresa
Leonard, are made available online for single MP3 purchases on
iTunes, AmazonMP3, Napster, and Rhapsody.
In August, the bands featured
vocalist, Teresa Leonard, records the single, Ordinary
Miracle, which is added to Caught in the Act
as a bonus studio track.
The band gets a bit of a scare
in late April when featured vocalist Teresa Leonard contracts
laryngitis, which eventually becomes a throat infection that
keeps her off the bandstand for nearly four months. Slow recovery
began in August, but even by September 20 when the band performed
at the annual Maryland Wine Festival, Teresa's voice was not
In June, Blue Moon Big Band makes
its first of two annual appearances at Naylor Wine Cellars in
Stewartstown, PA, marking the eighth consecutive year of performances
at the winery. In August, the band's engagement at Naylor was
its 16th during that span.
In July, as a sign of the times,
the band joins the social networking website Facebook and creates
the Blue Moon Big Band group. By August, membership tops the
Also in August, the band makes
its debut performance at Nissley Vineyards in Bainbridge, PA,
with more than 1,500 in attendance.
Dave Witherspoon, pianist with
Blue Moon Big Band from 1999 through 2001, passes away on August
8 due to heart complications. Dave was 66 years old.
On August 21, the feature film
My One and Only starring Kevin Bacon and Renee Zellweger,
and introducing members of Blue Moon Big Band to the big screen,
premiers in New York and Los Angeles. And so, the group was officially
"one degree of separation from Kevin Bacon!"
In September, Blue Moon Big Band
and its Latin-infused quartet, Blue Caliente, return to the Maryland
The band wraps up its 11th year
with an exhilarating New Year's Eve performance in snowy (and
In May, the band makes its debut
appearance at the Rolling Rock Club, an exclusive private country
club located in Ligonier, PA (about 50 miles outside of Pittsburgh).
By mid-year, Blue Moon Big Band
group membership tops 300 on Facebook.
Blue Moon makes its second consecutive
summer appearance at Nissley Vineyards in Bainbridge, PA, and
plays its 17th and 18th shows (2 per year for 9 straight seasons)
at Naylor Wine Cellars in Stewartstown, PA.
In September, Blue Caliente and
Blue Moon Big Band once again perform at the Maryland Wine Festival.
In March, trumpet soloist Mark
Kelly leaves the band for a cruise ship gig!
In May, pianist Eric Byrd adds
to his already busy schedule when he accepts a music leadership
position at a church. In addition to teaching at two schools
and running his own trio, the added commitment compels him to
leave Blue Moon. The band is fortunate to welcome the incredibly
talented Jan Abbott as his replacement.
Later that month, Blue Moon Big
Band teams up again with partner group Big Band Caliente for
a "Hot and Cool" big band concert at the Carroll Arts
Center in Westminster, MD. This event also marks the final performance
for long time Blue Moon trombonist Todd Clontz who leaves the
band due to the demands of family commitments. He had been with
the group since 1998.
In June, audience favorite Katie
Lowdowski decides to leave the band shortly after earning her
pharmacy degree. The demands of a new job and plans to start
a family drive her decision. Her final performance comes at the
Spanish Ballroom in Glen Echo, MD on June 4. The band welcomes
Dan Wallace as her replacement later in the month.
Also in June, the band welcomes
new Jorge Ayala (trumpet), who has been sitting in with the band
on occasion throughout the past year, as a full-time member.
On June 18, Blue Moon Big Band
performs at Naylor Wine Cellars in Stewartstown, PA. It is the
band's 19th engagement at the venue over a period of 10 consecutive
In August, the band welcomes Charlie
Doherty to the group as its new lead trombonist.
In October, the band officially
welcomes Mark Alves (who has been sitting in with the band since
early in the year to the trombone section.
More to come... stay tuned!