Maine Pops Concert Band Taking Initial Steps to Forming a Swing Band for 2024-2025 Season

The Maine Pops Concert Band is looking to add a new dimension to its repertoire in providing music entertainment to its regional base. The 36-year-old concert band ensemble is forming a swing band – modeled after the classic big bands - with plans to begin local performances during the Maine Pops’ 2024-2025 season.

The idea of a Maine Pops Swing Band came from trumpeters Randy Kitano and Peter Flournoy, both recent additions to the Maine Pops Concert Band. Both experienced musicians with big band credentials, Kitano and Flournoy first proposed creating the big band during the February Maine Pops monthly board meeting.

“I have been looking to get back into jazz ever since I took up trumpet again in the late 90s,” said Flournoy. He said the drive behind starting the Maine Pops Swing Band was that he could not find any opportunities for trumpet players locally.

Kitano found the same frustration with finding a jazz band home in Maine. “I really enjoy playing and listening to big band swing music,” said Kitano, a veteran of two U.S. Navy regional big bands, plus a slew of local big bands in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island. “Since moving to Maine this last fall, I have unsuccessfully been looking for a swing band to play with.”

At the time of his joining the Maine Pops, Kitano said he connected with Flournoy, and both decided to combine their efforts and see if they could start a swing band ensemble as part of the Maine Pops Concert Band. During his time with his past bands, Kitano assembled an impressive library of swing band music containing over 6,000 “charts.”

The recommendation of additional ensembles within the Maine Pops is not new. The concert band formed a flute choir in October of 2022, and added a woodwind quintet in January of 2023. The swing band would be the third ensemble under the Maine Pops as it looks to promote additional avenues of music performance to its members.

Under their proposal, both Kitano and Flournoy would co-manage the swing band operations, with the advice and consent of Maine Pops Concert Band Director David Watts. The swing band would align operations with the Maine Pops operating procedure, and the swing band managers would coordinate the audition process, rehearsal venues and times.

Most importantly, the Maine Pops Swing Band would be an internal asset of the Maine Pops Concert Band, with priority going to the current band members. With nearly one hundred musicians now part of the Maine Pops, both Kitano and Flournoy felt that current Maine Pops musicians should have top priority in staffing the swing ensemble. “We have had nothing but very positive and encouraging comments from other members of the Maine Pops Concert Band on starting up this ensemble,” said Kitano. He added that both the band president and the conductor have been incredibly supportive of their plans.

The ensemble will consist of a traditional big band instrumentation:
• four trumpets (flugelhorn and flugelhorn experience desired)
• three trombones,
• one bass trombone,
• two alto saxophones (soprano saxophone and clarinet experience desired),
• two tenor saxophones (soprano saxophone and clarinet experience desired),
• one baritone saxophone,
• one keyboard,
• one drummer,
• one rhythm guitar,
• one string bass or bass guitar.

Kitano said he and Flournoy are also looking for a male and female vocalist to join the ensemble and added that they would look outside the Maine Pops membership only if slots could not be filled from within the concert band. He added that he and Flournoy may modify instrumentation in time to allow other Maine Pops Concert Band members to join. Kitano also said the swing band will need alternate and substitute players to fill in for those missing at performances and rehearsals.

The interest of having a Maine Pops Swing Band was immediate. Kitano and Flournoy informed the concert band on February 14 about the proposal. As of March 6, Flournoy said all of the big band positions had applicants from within the concert band.

Organizing the band is only the first step. Both Flournoy and Kitano realize it’s going to take time to schedule rehearsal sites and dates, select music, and organize programs for performances in and around the greater Portland area. Flournoy indicated that “…a realistic goal would be to prepare for performances in Spring/Summer of 2025.” He did leave an option of “sooner” if the band is well-prepared.

To Kitano, the idea of having a Maine Pops Swing Band is a way to provide something different to the Maine Pops musicians. “My goals are to have an open, fun, and excellent sounding big band for performances in the Portland area,” said Kitano. “Our immediate goals are to find the musicians and vocalist for a full-size big band and to also locate a rehearsal location and space. We are looking forward to working with the Maine Pops Board and band members in fulfilling these goals.”