MACOMB – A unique collaboration that encompasses a local veterans' organization and talented musicians from the Macomb and Western Illinois University communities is bringing Big Band music to Macomb each month.
The Post 6 Big Band performs free at Macomb's Post 6 American Legion, with musicians led by WIU Director of Jazz Studies Professor John Cooper. The band is made up of 17 musicians, including WIU faculty and staff and musicians from around the region.
WIU Instrument Repair Technician Chad Walker said the idea of developing a local group with a Big Band focus has been discussed locally for nearly 20 years.
Cooper and WIU Music Professor Bruce Briney play "Taps" as part of the Honor Guard during military funeral services in the area. Through that volunteerism, a relationship developed with American Legion Post 6 finance officer and past commander Roger Oliver.
"We thought the partnership is a nice way to bring the American Legion into this and to give us a home," said Cooper. "It also puts a few shekels in their coffers to have this monthly event here."
There are no auditions to be in the band, nor are there any practices.
"We are a rehearsal band, which means most of the time we are sight-reading music; our performances are our practices," said Cooper. "We have a steady and growing audience and people are so gracious when we take up a free-will donation to pay for things like music and folders."
As WIU faculty participate in the performances, some of their students are drawn to the American Legion to hear their professors and mentors play.
"Sometimes we have students show up to listen and they end up sitting in for some songs," said Cooper.
Oliver said in a few short months, the collaboration has developed into a benefit for not only the band and the American Legion, but also the audiences who come out to hear the performances.
"They play so well; they are all professionals," said Oliver. "What a benefit it is to have such a quality group of musicians playing a venue for free. This is just another way the University and the community can come together and work well together. Where else could you listen to live Big Band music of this quality for free?"
The band performs the last Wednesday of each month at the Post 6 home, at 221 E. Washington St. The Post 6 Big Band's next performance is Wednesday, Nov. 29 from 7-9 p.m. Admission is free and membership in the American Legion is not necessary to attend. The performance area includes room for dancing.
The song selections for the November performance include Christmas music. There will be no performance in December.
"This is a great thing for the community," said Cooper. "You have to enrich the community you live in; it's important to all of us. We love this music too, and we enjoy playing it for people."
For more information about the Post 6 Big Band, visit

— Submitted by Jodi Pospeschil, WIU News