Revisiting the past with Friday’s Nostalgia dance

by Robert Lyons, reporter

Last Friday evening, Simpson College’s jazz band and Mu Phi Epsilon put on what someone from the 1940s might call an “ace clam-bake” or “awesome swing dance” for the 40’s era slang-deprived.

Close to 100 students, faculty and Indianola residents danced the night away at Simpson’s biennial Nostalgia Night. Attendees were treated to some of the most well-known jazz tunes of the 1930s and 40s.

“The jazz band kick[ed] things off with some of the greatest, most memorable and most popular tunes from that era,” Dave Camwell, associate professor of music and director of the Jazz Band at Simpson, said. “We play[ed] all the famous stuff, from ‘In the Mood,’ ‘Pennsylvania 6-5000,’ ‘Little Brown Jug’ and we d[id] throw in a few contemporary things too.”

Many Nostalgia Dance attendees took advantage of a free swing dance lesson offered prior to the actual event. Instructors from “Swing Des Moines!” were brought in to teach the basics of swing dancing to attendees.

After the thirty minute instructional period, the jazz band took the stage and that’s when things really started swinging. However, it was not just the dancers who were having a good time, but members of the jazz band were as well.

“I enjoy the environment of the Nostalgia Dance with so many different people out there enjoying the music,” Tom Miller, bass player, said. “Most of the time when we play, people aren’t interacting with the music as much, so it’s nice taking it into a different setting.”

In addition to the jazz band, vocalists were also included as part of the Nostalgia Night festivities. Modern jazz bands typically don’t include vocalists but they were an integral part of jazz back in the 1930s and 40s.

“We ha[d] about eight to ten different vocalists that [came] up and [these were] students and faculty from our music department,” Camwell said. “It [was] a nice way to bring together our department in terms of vocalists and instrumentalists and put everyone on the same stage.”

Kate Court, president of Mu Phi Epsilon, felt the night was an incredible success.

“We’d been planning for this for about a month and while it was stressful, it was fun,” Court said. “When we did this my freshman year I didn’t have to plan and it was so much fun then that I knew it was going to pay off this time around.”

Court said it’s about realizing how hard work pays off.

“It’s one thing to come and enjoy the evening and it’s another to be proud that it’s all running smoothly,” Court said.

And that was the main point to take away from Nostalgia Night; that everyone, from the vocalists and band members to the dancers, was there to have fun and go back to a simpler time for a little while.

“It was nice to have an evening where we didn’t play music for music’s sake or play anything that was esoteric or contemporary or challenging of music for musicians,” Camwell said. “This was, flat out, music for the general public that was easily consumable, hummable and sing-able.”