Featuring Lincoln, Nebraska's Only Weekly Big Band Series
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Arts Incorporated


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Rehearsal bands like the Monday Night Big Band have been performing on Monday nights in Lincoln, Nebraska, under a variety of names and at numerous venues since the 1970’s. An earlier version of the Monday Night Big Band (MNBB), called Mothers Big Band, was named after a local music store. One version of the band was called the Nebraska Diamond Big Band and was named after another corporate sponsor. Early leaders and supporters of the groups included Jon Hischke, Craig Lenz, John Tavlin, and Dave Sharp, among others. Previous Monday night “homes” have included the Zoo Bar, Chesterfield’s, the Ramada Hotel, First Avenue, a former grocery store on North 27th Street, the basement of the Hilton Hotel, the Top of the Rock facility above the Rock & Roll Runza, and most recently at P. O. Pears.

The Monday Night Big Band is supported by the Capital Jazz Society. Regular Monday night sessions have provided an opportunity for thousands of musicians to sight-read and perform a variety of big band jazz literature over the years. Musicians are encouraged to sit in and are provided an opportunity to play or solo with the MNBB. The line-up has included musicians from middle school to seasoned professionals and is usually a good mix of musicians aged 17-50+. A number of well-known jazz musicians have sat in with the band when they were in Lincoln over the years. The MNBB also provides an opportunity for local composers and arrangers to have their works performed, most notably Dr. Randall Snyder of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The MNBB was conceived in the finest of Monday night big band traditions started years ago by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis at the Village Vanguard in New York City. This tradition is now being carried out every Monday night in many cities throughout the US. The current instrumentation is 5 saxes, 4-5 trumpets, 4-5 trombones, piano, guitar, bass and drums. It has also included vibes, harmonica, percussionists, other winds, French horns, tuba, vocalists and electric cello in the past.

The current organization was formed in 1996, after a break of several years, by a group of musicians that realized running a weekly big band required more time, organization, and financial support than one person could provide. It was formed to provide a weekly sight-reading and performing opportunity for area jazz musicians both young and old and too create a regular venue presenting live jazz music.

The MNBB is supported by various donors, weekly sponsors (individuals and businesses), as well as admission fees charged at the door. The 17 or more musicians are given a split of the door each evening and are certainly not in it for the money. This arrangement is made possible in part with the cooperation and endorsement of Local 463 of the American Federation of Musicians. Music performed comes from the library of the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra and music to sight-read on occasion comes from the area’s College, University, High School and other band directors.

Directors of the band rotate on a weekly basis and there are usually 10 – 12 different directors throughout the course of a year. Many composers and arrangers have donated music to the library and the MNBB also adds to the library on a regular basis with purchases of new music made possible by one of the local sponsors, Dietze Music House.

The Monday Night Big Band is not available for hire and performs only on Monday nights. Management services, including hiring of musicians each week is provided by Arts Incorporated.

Area high school jazz band directors are encouraged to bring their band down to listen and sit in at a group discount ($1 each), and the MNBB is delighted to read charts provided by the band director that their band might be performing. This provides a sight-reading opportunity for the band and also is a way for younger musicians to hear what their school big band music sounds like and how a group of more “seasoned” musicians might play it. Students and others are encouraged to bring their instruments and sit-in with the MNBB during the 2nd and 3rd sets.


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