Singers add to big band sound

The Nanaimo Musicians Association Big Band has long-time connections with Vancouver Island University.

Sydney Needham

Sydney Needham

What do Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney have in common?

They all began their singing career as featured vocalist with a big band.

That was the way countless singers started out, right up to the time that big bands ceased to be economically viable. It was a great way to gain musical experience, before striking out on their own.

Those opportunities are not available to aspiring singers today – except in Nanaimo.

The Nanaimo Musicians Association Big Band has long-time connections with Vancouver Island University.

The band, comprised of some of the mid-Island’s best big band musicians, has been directed by Vancouver Island University faculty members Steve Jones and Bryan Stovell for most of the last 20 years.

Top VIU jazz program students play in the band, and vocal students from that program are able to take advantage of this unique opportunity to work with a great big band. Diana Krall sang with the band when she was in high school.

This combination of talents will be on show Oct. 5, 7:30 p.m., when the NMA Big Band extends the invitation to Come Fly With Us at Malaspina Theatre for a concert featuring vocalists Sydney Needham and Niall Harvey.

Needham was born and raised in Victoria into a musical family, and has been singing from an early age.

She trained with Victoria legend Louise Rose and performs in a variety of musical styles.  She was the winner of Victoria Idol contest in 2011, and is currently studying vocal jazz at VIU.

Harvey hails from the Comox Valley, and as well as singing in the style of Sinatra and Michael Buble, he also plays trumpet. He plays and sings with several local bands, and is also enrolled in the jazz program.

Tickets for the concert are $10; $5/students at Tom Lee Music, Bastion Trophies and Fascinating Rhythm.