Special to the Register
“Deep within my heart lies a melody…” Young musicians who get excited
when they hear the unique sounds that go along with these famous song
lyrics will head for North Central Texas College again this summer for
the third annual Big Texas Swing School.
Set for July 17-21 on the NCTC Gainesville campus, the school is
organized and run by four-time Grammy nominee Dave Alexander, widely
regarded as one of the country’s foremost western swing performers.
“There are still a few openings for participants,” Alexander said,
“but they will fill quickly, and I urge those interested to act
quickly to secure a spot.”
This unique summer program offers musicians age 12 to 17 the
opportunity to learn the finer points of playing this special brand of
music from Alexander and other seasoned pros.
As a recording artist and leader of his own Big Texas Swing Band,
Alexander said he’s proud to be carrying on the traditionestablished
by the most famous western swingers of them all—Bob Wills and his
“Bob Wills definitely invented a unique sound and brand of music that
has retained its popularity since the 1930s,” Alexander said. “It’s a
combination of traditional country, big band swing and jazz, and to
perform it well requires a fairly high level of musicianship and lots
“Giving students the opportunity to hone their musical skills and
practice under the guidance of professionals is what the swing school
is all about. And we’ll have a place for students of just about all
levels of talent, ability and experience.”
The school is open to all students who play a musical instrument or
sing, know the basics of reading music and are excited about the many
disciplines of Western swing, Alexander added.
Participants will be housed on campus in one of the NCTC residence
halls under 24-hour supervision of school organizers, and classeswill
be conducted in the modern rehearsal halls and on the main stage of
the college’s First State Bank Center for the Performing Arts.
“It’s an absolutely ideal venue for both learning and performing,”
Alexander said, “and we think it adds another special dimension to the
quality of the experience we’re offering to our young musicians.”
School organizer Alexander is a graduate of the University of North
Texas and former member of UNT’s famed One O’Clock Lab Band. He was
for some time the music director for the Dallas Cowboys, is an
inductee into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame and 2004 Academy of
Western Artists “Male Vocalist of the Year.” He has recorded and
performed with a long list of greats from Asleep at the Wheel to
In coming up with the idea for the swing school, Alexander said he
envisioned it as something that would go far beyond the normal “band
“This is not only because of the unique type of music and
instrumentation involved,” he said, “but also because of the caliber
of the instructors the participants will be learning from, all of them
Alexander added that the school’s unique curriculum seats the
equivalent of a limited number of swing bands including fiddles, bass
and lead guitars, bass fiddle, drums, trumpet, trombone, clarinet,
saxophone, banjo, mandolin, steel guitar, piano and vocalists.
“We’ll also emphasize the experience of actually playing in a swing
band and the magic that happens when expression and improvisation are
encouraged,” he said.
Swing School participants also will learn from guestartists and
speakers and enjoy a program of evening activities in addition to
documentaries, videos, Bob Wills movies, discussions and jam sessions.
“I suppose you could say western swing is part of my DNA,“ Alexander
said. ”My dad played trombone and some trumpet with Johnnie Lee Wills,
and sometimes he and the rest of Johnnie Lee’s horn section would go
on the road with Bob Wills himself.
“I have been fortunate to have traveled my own music road and to be
enjoying it to this day. I am honored and thrilled to be sharing what
I’ve learned about this great American music form, western swing, with
The Big Texas Swing School will conclude with a Saturday Awards
Concert on July 21. This “Grand Concert” is open to the public,
providing an opportunity for students to perform for an audience and
to be recognized for their achievements.
To learn more about the cost of the school, how to enroll or for other
information, go online to www.bigtexasswingschool.com or call