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Members of Big Band X-Press rehearse during a recent practice session held at the Burroughs High School band classroom. The band convenes for practice every Monday night. / Laura Austin Photo

Big Band to perform ‘Spring Fling’ at Historic USO April 20

Big Band X-Press Yvonne Beyer– Big Band (BBX-Press) will play on April 20th at 7:30 pm for their annual “Spring Fling” at the USO building. You can come to dance or listen to big band-era music.  Admission is $10. Some refreshments, and drinks can be purchased.  Come at 6:30 to learn swing dance steps taught by Chris Millet and Anna Webber, who can be reached at the Groove Ballroom at (760) 384-8435.

The BBX-Press is a “not-for-profit” volunteer group that promotes music education for young musicians in the valley and provides an opportunity for students to gain the Big Band experience. The band dedicates most of its earnings to sending several young musicians to summer music camps. Anyone wishing to join the band can attend the Monday night practices at 7 p.m. in the Burroughs High School band room.

The Big Band X-Press Music Scholarship takes applications each February and grants the scholarships in March.  The scholarship money can be applied to a school or music camp of the student’s choice. This year’s recipients are Aaron Aberer (Sax), Nathan Neipp (Trombone), Ethan Hardy (Piano), Julia Rindt (Bass) and Donnell Dunlap (Trumpet). You can donate anytime to honor and promote young music students by attending the dances and contacting Julia Mason in the trumpet section.

Before the next dance, on April 20th, musicians in each musical section of the band will be highlighted with pictures and names.  This April, the trumpet section will be featured.

Simon Austin / Laura Austin Photo

Simon Austin, a retired BHS music teacher, has played trumpet and several other horns for over 50 years. He joined the BBX in 1993 when Ken Bergevin, who played alto sax with the BBX, invited him to join. Simon has also played with the Cerro Coso Community College Band. If you go to the Ridgecrest Theater, look at the beautiful display case highlighting the musical talent Simon cultivated through the Burroughs High School band.

BBX members featured are standing: Del Ahlin, Julia Mason; kneeling: Riley Mason and Greg Cote

Del Ahlin joined BBX in 2018 or 2019. He has 40+ years of musical experience playing in and writing for big bands. He is awesome, frequently taking all the high notes. He loves this community and appreciates the many opportunities to stay musically engaged. Ahlin also plays with the Desert Community Orchestra, the Ridgecrest Brass Ensemble, and the Dixieland Band.

Julia Mason (and Riley) started playing trumpet with the BBX in the winter of 2022 after seeing an article in the News Review. Julia has the exciting and rewarding experience of working on and coordinating the Big Band X-Press Music Scholarship for middle and high schoolers. The BBX provides an ensemble experience for students. Both Julia and Riley also play with the Cerro Coso College Band.

Riley Mason, a very talented youth, started playing Trumpet at age 6 1/2. He has also learned French Horn, Marimba, Piano, and drums. During the pandemic, Riley couldn’t play trumpet duets via Skype, so Julia started playing duets with him. Since saxes generally sit in front of the bandstand, with trumpets and trombones in a row, it might not be easy to see Riley unless he stands up to play.

Greg Cote started playing with the BBX in 2005 by invitation from Greg Velicer after 30 years of not playing. He also plays guitar and bass guitar—he is self-taught. Cote plays with several groups, including the Cerro Coso College Band, occasionally with the Desert Community Band, and sometimes with the Strawhatters. He’ll keep playing, he says, “as long as my lip (and fingers) hold out.”