published Thursday, February 13th, 2014

'Big Band Fever!' - Feb. 14-15

CSO presents popular dance music of the swing era in two weekend shows

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    CSO’s “Big Band Fever!” concert will include the music of Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington.

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    Valerie Duke, a graduate of Chattanooga Center for Creative Arts, returns home this weekend to sing with the CSO at “Big Band Fever!”

Take your valentine for a spin around the dance floor when the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera presents "Big Band Fever!" on Friday and Saturday nights, Feb. 14-15, in the Tivoli Theatre.

Molly Sasse, CSO executive director, says the CSO will play all the traditional hits such as "String of Pearls," "In the Mood," and "Moonlight Serenade" among its program of Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington music.

"I just love this concert," she says. "To me, it's like a party instead of a concert. Everybody loves the music. People can come up onstage to dance, dance on the floor in front of the stage, and you'll see people dancing backstage, in the aisles and in the lobby. You can't sit still, so you might as well dance."

Joining the musicians will be vocalist Valerie Duke, a graduate of Center for Creative Arts, who is a former Glenn Miller Orchestra vocalist.

While attending CCA, Duke was one of the Choo-Choo Kids, the performing arts magnet school's elite song-and-dance troupe. Allan Ledford, who was the Choo-Choo Kids director at that time, says Duke was one of the students who traveled with the ensemble to South Korea's International Arts Festival in Gangneung. The Choo-Choo Kids were Chattanooga's representatives to its Sister City's festival.

"As part of our show, we did a 'Thoroughly Modern Millie' set, and she sang the lead in that," Ledford recalls. "She and her sister, Natalie, who was a dancer, were at the school at the same time. Valerie worked at the Chattanooga Choo Choo's Station House for a while. She was a great student, had a lot of talent and great personality."

After graduation, Duke moved to New York City to study musical theater. In 2010, she auditioned for the Glenn Miller Orchestra and was asked to join the world-renowned orchestra at age 23. She toured the U.S., Canada and Japan with the big band.

In 2013, she sang at the seventh All Angels Jazz Festival in Kauai. She now is a regular vocalist with the Brad Walker Orchestra and makes guest appearances across the country in her free time.

"It's good to see a hometown talent return," says Ledford. "Especially since is there any big band that Chattanooga has more of a connection with than the Glenn Miller Orchestra and 'Chattanooga Choo Choo'?"

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

IF YOU GO

■ What: “Big Band Fever!” with the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera.

■ When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Feb. 14-15.

■ Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.

■ Admission: Starts at $33 Friday, starts at $52 Saturday (cheaper seating sections are already sold out).

■ Phone: 423-267-8583.

■ Website: www.ChattanoogaSymphony.org.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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