Bringing Big Band to Santa Barbara, Glenn Miller Orchestra at the Marjorie Luke Theatre

A Show Full of History and Entertainment

The Glen Miller Orchestra will perform on March 20 at the Marjorie Luke Theatre | Credit: Courtesy

Bringing the rich big-band history to the sunny California coast, Erik Stabnau and the Glenn Miller Orchestra (GMO) are set to hit Santa Barbara’s Marjorie Luke Theatre on March 20. “There’s something for everyone. There’s always something to latch onto and enjoy” says Stabnau, music director, tenor saxophonist, and vocalist for the Glenn Miller Orchestra. 

Vocalist Jenny Swoish of the Glen Miller Orchestra  | Credit: Jessica Stettner

In an effort to emulate the sound of jazz musician Stan Getz, Stabnau gravitated toward jazz and big-band music early on in his life and found himself playing for Glenn Miller Orchestra in June 2017. His story: A friend was playing in the orchestra, a tenor saxophone position opened up, and a few weeks later, he was on the road. Now, he is leading the band across the United States on a year-long tour. 

The Rochester, New York, native is bringing a show rather than a concert to Santa Barbara, complete with historic fun facts in between songs and choreography. 

“For folks that know this music, you’re going to hear all the songs you’re hoping to hear, and for folks that are new to this music, I think there is something for everyone,” says Stabnau.

On the topic of songs, I asked what the Glenn Miller Orchestra performs. After all, Miller wrote around 750 songs during his short time as a leader of the orchestra. Stabnau says the audience will be treated to favorites like “Moonlight Serenade,” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” but also songs that aren’t as well known. Stabnau’s personal favorite is “Moonlight Cocktail,” which features group vocals. The show is different every night, and the band is known to move outside the Glenn Miller Orchestra library and perform songs by other bands of the swing era.

Erik Stabnau, the Glenn Miller Orchestra music director, vocalist & tenor saxophone soloist   | Credit: Courtesy

“You’re going to hear the melodies you recognize and songs like ‘In the Mood,’ ‘String of Pearls’ or ‘Pennsylvania 6-5000,’ but we feature soloists that are improvising … it’s always a different show,” says Stabnau.

The band shares aspects with improvised jazz music, but the melodies and harmonies of the Glenn Miller Orchestra make their sound unmistakable and unforgettable. 

“I just hope to continue doing what we’re doing in presenting the music of Glenn Miller and trying to authentically replicate the sound of the original band and feature the current musicians that we have on stage as well … you can hear their personalities come out on stage,” says Stabnau. “When you hear a GMO show … you’re hearing really acoustic music; you’re hearing the acoustic sound of 14 musicians on stage, which is pretty rare in this day and age.”

The Glenn Miller Orchestra performs at the Marjorie Luke Theatre on Monday, March 20, at 7 p.m. See luketheatre.org/event/glenn-miller-orchestra-concert.

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