DeRidder’s Resident Jazz Band “Southwest Jazz” Begins Eighth Concert Season
If you know your DeRidder story well, you know the city has a musical past.
The first sawmill towns in our area had their own bands and Ludington even had an orchestra.
At Ford’s Opera House on the corner of Washington and First, the Stovall’s Orchestra entertained in the early 1900s. There was also the Coronado Ballroom, once located in the old Sartor building, which burned down in 2015.
The DeRidder Army Air Base also had its own band – and its own song.
At the former USO, now the War Memorial Civic Center, during World War II, groups entertained dozens of servicemen and their dance partners.
Stellar school orchestras… notable band leaders… notable musicians from our region, past and present… one of the oldest recorded violin competitions in the South… a former mayor trumpeter… the list goes on. You can probably add to it!
You might not know that DeRidder has a jazz band as well.
Randy Sanchez, retired band director and band member, says “Southwest Jazz” is one of the few jazz bands in the state.
The members have been performing together since 2013 and have performed a repertoire of over 100 classics of 1940s jazz, Latin and rock at concerts throughout the region.
Southwest Jazz is made up of talented musicians from the parishes of Beauregard, Vernon and Calcasieu. Most of the members are group directors and music teachers. Current members, in addition to Sanchez, are Aaron Theall, Ola Demus-Jackson, Amanda Escue, Carolyn Herrington, Ruth Blair, Maddi Geraci, Brendon Groves, Evan MacEleer, Tra ‘Latham, Eddie Joslin, Daphne Richardson, Roland Smith, Billie Geraci, Colleen Glaser, Stan Wheeler, Jeff Ford and Blake Gilbert.
Sanchez himself first came to Louisiana through the US Army and Fort Polk in the 1970s as a band member of the 5th Division. He retired a few years ago as a longtime group principal at East Beauregard High School.
“Most of the members play their second instrument or an alternative instrument just to get the band working, from the clarinet to playing the sax… or the trumpet to playing the trombone. We’re not perfect, but we’re taking advantage of it, ”Sanchez said.
The members, of course, all read music so they can play a wide range of things and pull out a long playlist. They perform in the spring because in the fall the directors are busy with football matches and fanfare festivals.
Southwest Jazz is now in its eighth concert season.
The concerts are open to the public and free.
An upcoming concert will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 14 at the Wooten Theater in downtown DeRidder. It will present a wide variety of modern dance, swing and pop music. Donations received will benefit the Impromptu Players Association.
For more on Southwest Jazz’s performances, be sure to follow the group’s Facebook page:
The Town chronicles the stories of the Town of DeRidder in a special section of its Facebook page called “Hometown Headlines”. 𝐸𝑚𝑎𝑖𝑙 𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑦 𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑎𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑒𝑤𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑛@𝑐𝑖𝑡𝑦𝑜𝑓𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑑𝑑𝑒𝑟.𝑜𝑟𝑔. #internationaljazzday