More than 250 years – experience! When I did a survey of the members of the JMBAND I calculated in my head (dangerous as it is) that our players have more than 250 years combined experience in the field of EDUCATION.

Full college professors with Doctorates to elementary teachers, to private tutors, to high school band directors are dedicated members of the JMBAND. Not all of that experience is in the field of music either. Nearly all members have advanced college degrees.

So it is no wonder when I asked the band if they would volunteer their time to travel to Joplin from NWA to play at a Jazz camp not one person balked.

Recently we performed for 25 students ages 13-17 at MSSU JAZZ CAMP. What a great night for us. The audience consisted of about 125 supporters of those kids which meant a lot to me as well to see THEM there.

I also had the chance to teach these bright young musicians at the camp and form a jazz ensemble to perform on the concert – and I could not be more proud of their performance!

We RARELY get to perform in a “concert” setting and this gave our guys a chance to spread their wings and shine. It was a night both audience and performers will never forget.


Just one week later the JMBAND performed for an ENTIRELY different crowd. The ages of most of the 200+ in this audience was between 65 and 70 years old. The band was privileged to perform for the 50 Year reunion for the classes of 1964,’65 and ’66 Fayetteville High school reunion. ANOTHER great night for the band and the crowd! JMBAND provided lots of classic Rock ‘N Roll that night which got the crowd out on the dance floor!

If you are looking for a band that will WORK with YOU to make your special event even MORE special – look no further – THE JMBAND OF NWA DEFINITELY DELIVERS!


Why Big Bands??? Why Not!

I was a freshman in high school. My band director was a big band/jazz fan and especially a Maynard Ferguson fan. He was a sax player and frustrated trumpet player. I was a young hot shot trumpet player just realizing what this great music they called JAZZ was. By the time I graduated from Central High School I had played “Give it One” and “Country Road” by Maynard. I also had heard the Maynard play live as well as Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Stan Kenton and Count Basie. This was the early 70’s the era of Chicago/Blood Sweat and Tears, Tower of Power. The big band of the 30’s that was a dance band had evolved. Gone were the dances replaced by concerts. Big Bands were striving to keep “hip” by covering the great pop artists of the day. Of all the before mentioned bands only Basie truly has survived. And why – because THEY ARE BASIE. Playing the great sounds of true swing. I was also inspired by the great MASSIVE sound of the Stan Kenton Jazz Orchestra. I attended 4 Kenton clinics in my home town of Springfield at my alma mater Drury University. I will never forget the evening concerts given every night at the clinic – WOW!

Why do I say all this – because the power combined with the intimacy of a LIVE performance of a big band can NOT be really appreciated in any other method than live. You can compare that to the sound of a great symphony orchestra – recordings just do not do the same thing.

Whether the JMBAND delivers as 20 pieces or just a small combo – the feeling you walk away from a live performance is unparalleled.

I was bitten early by the sound and fury of the big bands and will until my dying day strive to keep this medium alive and thriving. I will toot my own horn and say that our patrons over the last 6 years of the JMBAND never left a performance feeling they were cheated out of what they paid for. We strive to please our fellow big band loving customers and hope you will give us an opportunity to “swing our *&%!! Off”! To steal a well quoted phrase from the one and only Buddy Rich.



Sweet 16 at 60

Sixteen years ago, I began singing with the Jack Mitchell Big Band. Jack called me up on my birthday…July 11th, 1998, and asked me if I could be the vocalist for his band. I was actually stunned because he already had a singer at the time, so I thought. I had auditioned for the band a few weeks earlier to be the “back up” vocalist, filling in when needed. As fate would have it, I’m still going strong with the newly organized Jack Mitchell Big Band, now known as the Jm Band of Northwest Arkansas.

It’s been a tremendous ride and one that I am not going to give up any time soon. A classically trained singer, I had much to learn in the jazz era of music!! And boy, did I learn quickly!! Jack had a way of throwing you into the frying pan and just expected you to be ready!! He would not allow the vocalist to perform from sheet music during performances. Everything had to be memorized and polished! That’s one of the things I loved about Jack Mitchell…his expectations for musicianship were high and he expected no less from a vocalist!

The fact that I had the skill and training worked to my advantage, and listening to some of the jazz greats, such as Ella, Sarah, and Peggy, just to name a few, was an important part of my learning process. Hours were spent practicing and honing in on my skills as a jazz vocalist. I was able to adapt techniques and styling to what was comfortable and natural to me, and make it work for the big band. I found my own styling and realized that I could sing other genres of music, something that I never thought I could do!

This “big band” singing journey entered my veins and has been my constant companion all these years. It is a journey I will never let go of, and it is a part of me that runs deep, deeper than I realized. I grew up with my mom playing many of the big band favorites on the piano. She is an amazing pianist and still going strong at 90. As I have learned the history behind the big band greats, my love for the music has grown deeper, as well as the appreciation for my mom and dad and the era of music they grew up in.

Now, sixteen years later, I continue to practice daily, and get excited about learning new jazz material. It is true that you have to connect with the music and it has to become part of you. I get so much joy out of singing and entertaining with the big band, and I have so much fun. Sounds kind of cheesy… but it’s true. Something just comes alive in me when I hear the sound of the band and see people having such a great time.

Jack passed away in 2009, and left a wonderful legacy. The music he loved continues on through the Jm Band of Northwest Arkansas. The premiere 4 state performing group plays everything from standards, jazz, rock and roll, Latin, and pop. “We play music people know and love”. I am proud to be a part of such a great group of talented musicians.

So in celebration of my birthday on Friday, July 11th, 2014, I am having a surprise birthday party!! You might call it my “sweet 16 at 60.” Come to Riordan Hall in Bella Vista, from 7:30-9:30 and dance to the sounds of the JM Band of Northwest Arkansas. Help me celebrate my real birthday with the JM Band of Northwest Arkansas. See the flyer for specific details about the upcoming event!


From the Heart: Music Is…

What I love about what I do is how music touches us throughout our lives. I started my music career on piano in second grade. THAT did NOT work our very well! But once I had my trumpet in my hand in fifth grade I was hooked for life. The JMBAND had the privilege to honor our men and women in the armed forces with a tribute held at Riordan hall in Bella Vista for the Veterans Council. We also had the honor to accompany the Singing Men of Arkansas on God Bless America and Battle Hymn of The Republic. What an inspiring evening and I wish you all could have been there. The hall was packed with veterans and their families. To say I got choked up at times is and understatement. I have played the “Tribute to the Armed forces” since I was in high school myself -it has always meant a lot to me. But as I age it means more and more. This year I was able to hear the Singing Men of Arkansas perform it – and as each service stood up it was more inspiring. The icing on the cake was when the Marines were called – one man on the front row stood up at PERFECT attention during the whole Marine’s Hymn. Then the eyes welled up and it was all over including the crying! Other moments for me that night was JMBAND’s inspiring renditions of America, America the Beautiful and God Bless the USA. Thank you to all who have served and serving now. I am writing this on Memorial Day and thank you to my father and brother who also served in WWII and Vietnam. Look for us again to perform for the Veterans council – we historically do a Pearl Harbor tribute. Thank you Veterans!

“Weather” To Perform?

Having a large number of performances in December and February this year always creates some angst as to whether the WEATHER will be a factor. December definitely did not cooperate – canceling 2 out of 3 performances. February on the other hand DID cooperate for our 4 performances – we were lucky there! At the time of this writing we are preparing for an major winter storm on March 1-2! Fortunately the timing is such that the JM Combo will be able to perform for the Bootlegger Ball on Grand Lake at the Cherokee Yacht Club on March 1st. Another close call but as they say “the show must go on”.

NEW GIGS JUST BOOKED: – Senior Circle a division of Northwest Health will host their Senior Prom on Thursday, March 27th to be held at the Jones Center in Springdale. This is our 4th consecutive year to perform at this wonderful event. Usually 200-400 attend and do they LOVE to dance. Downbeat is 3pm to 6pm and you may contact Northwest Health for more information. It includes lots of giveaways, dinner and of course US!!

Speaking of people who LOVE to DANCE – the ‘kids’ at John Brown University in Siloam Springs always literally fill the dance floor. The JBU students are one of the band’s favorite groups to play for. These fine young adults sure impress the more ‘seasoned’ members of the band with their energy on the dance floor. This will be our 3rd time to play for them in recent years. We are honored to play for their Founder’s Day celebration on April 5th!

Hope you enjoy all the new pictures on the website – THANK YOU CHRIS THURSTON! And even have some mini video clips added. Our demo recording is still in the works – needed to ‘tweek’ some things ‘ so it will be on the site in the near future! Later – Bill

And the Band Played On! (And On!)

WOW—busy, busy, busy! Just got done with two gigs that have restored my faith that the love of big band music is not dead. The JM Band played for nearly 450 people for the Children’s Center Gala followed by Frosted: A Cool Big Band Valentine Ball for over 100 happy dancing patrons! On a personal note, my brother and sister and their spouses as well as my niece were there for the Valentine Ball! Great times! Watch for a ton of great pictures to be posted soon as well as maybe a short video or two! I have nothing but praise for all the crew at the Cosmopolitan Event Center Downtown Joplin for throwing such a great party Saturday. I highly recommend them if you need a place to host an event/wedding reception/party in Joplin, MO.

It made this musical director VERY PROUD that the dance floor was FULL of happy feet all the way to the end of the night! Look for more to come from the JM Band at the Cosmopolitan Event Center Downtown Joplin. (Check them out on Facebook.)

We have the honor to perform again this Saturday (22nd) for a great cause—the Neosho Arts Council SweetArts Gala. Lots of great art to be auctioned and a fun event culminating with the JM Band! This is our 3rd year in a row to be asked back—pretty special I think. As of this writing (19th), tickets are still available. Contact Neosho, MO Chamber of Commerce for more info.

Time to work on this week’s show! Hope to see/hear from you soon! – Bill

Frosted: A Big Band Valentine Ball!

Frosted: A Cool Big Band Ball

Happy almost Valentines day! It was truly one of the band’s greatest performances at the Children Center’s Gala—with a crowd of over 400 to inspire the band even more. It was a great cause with great people and the band hit not just a home run, but a Grand Slam (You will soon learn that I am a BIG baseball fan too!).

That being said, we’re excited for our next gig: “Frosted: A Big Band Valentine Ball.” For ticket information, check out the Facebook page of Cosmopolitan Event Center Downtown Joplin here. Dinner starts around 7:00pm with our combo playing from 7:40-8:20 and then the Big Band at 8:30.

We’re also pleased to announce that we’ll have some special guests with us for this event—fine jazz trombonist and Professor from MSSU, Phil Wise, who will be performing with both groups. Also joining our rhythm section on Bass is my former student and Carthage band director, Garry Greek.

Looking for a beautiful venue, no hassle fighting the crowds,and AWESOME entertainment to boot? Then I hope to see you at the Cosmopolitan Event Center Downtown Joplin on February 15th!

Keep swingin’ – Bill

Joplin’s Children’s Center Gala – Party at Gatsby’s

I am really pumped about our gig the the Joplin’s Children’s Center Gala – “Party at Gatsby’s”. We get to perform the music we love in a great venue/atmosphere for a WONDERFUL cause! What more could you ask for – well I guess I wish ALL our fans could be there!

I just checked on ticket sales and there are a limited number seats available – call 417-623-2292 to get your reservation. We always have a great band and now we add a new dimension with a special guest artist Les Lankhorst who will be performing many of the great “crooners” classics in the show. Our featured soloist, Susan Wizer, and Les also have a couple of special duets planned. You can check out Les at www.leslankhorst.com.

Guest sideman for this event include Northwest Arkansas’ finest jazz guitarist Roby Pantall. He will be with the band and be part of the combo performing from 6-7 during cocktail hour. Also joining our already fine trumpet section are two of the best players in the four states and my good friends- Scott Harris and Todd Hastings. Having played lead for many greats including Johnny Mathis and Wayne Newton, let me tell you these guys can blow!

I hope to see many of you there! It all starts with cocktail hour at 6:00, followed by dinner and special activities including a live auction. The JM Band starts “Swingin’ Hard” at 8:45 on February 8th at the Downstream Casino and Resort in Joplin.

Also don’t forget to SAVE THE DATE – Neosho “SweetArts Gala” supporting the Arts in Neosho, MO February 22.

Later – Bill


Many Thanks To You All! See You Soon??

Thanks to all the people in our wonderful region of Northwest Arkansas and Southwest Missouri and other areas who have enjoyed our band at your events. We have had some absolutely fabulous performances and the greatest part of all is becoming acquainted with all those who dance to and enjoy our unique assortment of music. Our recent gig at Crystal Bridges, Swingin Stieglitz Circle Night, had nearly 500 who purchased tickets, and was characterized by a perfect ambiance and many dancers having a great time. If you or your group or business has not yet experienced entertainment by the JM Band, contact us – you won’t regret it. We will arrange a performance to meet your needs and budget. I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all of our musicians, regulars and subs, who go the extra mile to provide our clientele with quality music. They are a fine group of highly- trained musicians who want to share their music with you….so, give us a call; we would love to perform for your group. Let’s dance!!

Ron Thurston
JM Band

P.S. Here are a couple of photos from the event.

Dancers at Crystal Bridges

Crystal Bridges Black and white

Swingin’ Stieglitz Circle Night at Crystal Bridges

We will be doing lots of swinging with the JM Band this week. We are so excited about getting to play at Crystal Bridges Museum on Friday, November 22, for Swingin’ Stieglitz Circle Night. This event promises to be an amazing night of celebrating the Alfred Stieglitz collection. This will be our third time to perform there but the FIRST that is open to the public. Expect a big crowd—but even better, a large group of younger adults who I LOVE introducing to big band music.

We are planning lots of swing tunes for lots of high energy swing dancing. We have a program slated with a variety all the way from “Sing, Sing, Sing” to “Last Dance” to “New York, New York” to “Rockin’ Robin”. Then we will add a couple of holiday classics to the mix to get everyone in the mood for the upcoming season. Come explore the American Modernism and enjoy the music from the JM Band of Northwest Arkansas.

This is also a busy time for the band and can’t wait for our Demo CD! I set the tunes order and wrote the script—now just waiting for the finished product. Expect to have it on the website early December!