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Tennyson to conduct final concert with Olney Big Band –

by Terri Hogan

Senior Staff Writer

The Olney Big Band will return to the Olney Theatre Center stage at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 27 for its 10th annual Swing! Swing! Swing! concert, marking a milestone for the organization and a nod to new leadership.

This year’s concert, billed as Swing X!, will provide a retrospective of the past decade of Swing! performances and a tribute to the Golden Age of big bands.

The concert, highlighting such greats as Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Les Brown, and Duke Ellington, will feature vocals by Matt Williams, returning guest crooner Brad Bawek, and swing dancers Pam and Steve Springer.

The first Swing! Swing! Swing! concert, held in 2009, was the idea of Dr. Rip Rice, the band’s previous conductor.

“Even though former director Dr. Rip Rice referred to it as a ‘concert of a lifetime,’ it was only the first of at least nine more,” said board member, tenor saxophonist and only current female bandmember Sue Vazakas. “As one of the three remaining charter members in the group, I’m in awe of how good the band has become and what incredible fun it is to play, and humbled that so many people come and enjoy this gig every year.”

At the 2011 Swing! Swing! Swing! concert, Rice handed over the conductor’s baton to Dr. Robert “Bob” Tennyson, who brought a lifetime of diverse experience working with orchestras, concert bands, operas, musicals and big bands.

This is the final concert under Tennyson, 80, who is retiring.

“I have been conducting for 60 years and have had an interesting career,” he said.

Tennyson holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in music performance and conducting from Indiana University and a doctorate in trombone performance, conducting and music history from the University of Maryland.

He has taught at several colleges and universities. As a trombonist, Tennyson was active at the Shady Grove Music Theater, National Theater, National Gallery Orchestra and the Kennedy Center Orchestra.

For many years he conducted the Potomac Pops Symphony Orchestra and was the Rockville Concert Band’s conductor from 1977 to 1994.

​    His career also included several years spent in Innsbruck Austria, where he worked as a conductor and music professor.

​    During the concert, Tennyson will pass the baton to Olney Big Band’s new director, Earl Jackson. Jackson is the band teacher and chairman of the performing arts department at Landon School in Bethesda.

Tennyson said he has known Jackson for about 35 years

“My time here has been very enjoyable, and I am happy for the opportunity to help us grow as an organization,” he said. “I am happy to turn it over to someone who I believe will continue that vision.”

Vazakas said band members are optimistic that the transition will again be smooth.

“I think Bob will miss the Olney Big Band and as much as we are going to miss him,” she said.


Tickets for Swing X! are available from the Olney Theatre Center box office, online at www.olneytheatre.org, or by calling 301-924-3400. Group rates are available; contact Weldon Brown at 301-924-4485, Ext. 121, or at [email protected].

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