Out of the shadow of Glenn Miller

"Except for a hiatus of two and half years, I have been on the road performing with the Glenn Miller orchestra since 1981," said O'Brien.

The current incarnation of the G.M. Orchestra began in 1956 after American silver screens lit up with actor James Stewart portraying Miller in the sentimental Hollywood hit "The Glenn Miller Story". The generation that sorely missed Miller's music demanded the orchestra's return to the spotlight. The Miller family approved and the rest is history.

Despite the fan attention the orchestra receives, big band music is in a long decline.

"Great singers like Sinatra, Bennett, Fitzgerald all had big bands behind them," O'Brien said. "But there aren't many great singers left. And losing this music will make us all the poorer. We're not enriching our culture when we cast off this rich heritage. We throw everything away in this nation-our music, bottles, cars, even wives."

It's not hard to be downbeat when it comes to the future of big band music. Yet O'Brien plugs on. He is an advocate for school music programs as a means to keep the genre alive. Many youngsters are exposed to band music in elementary and high school.

"Studies show that children enrolled in school music programs get better grades, are more likely to stay out of trouble, and are even more likely to attend college," he said. "But school music program budgets are being eliminated. It's sad."

O'Brien's retirement from the big band scene after nearly 50 years may not appear as bittersweet as it sounds. The music director's planned escape to Hawaii with his wife Judy may unconsciously call to mind the whimsical, original lyrics of "Little Brown Jug", the post-Civil War tavern song updated and popularized by Glenn Miller:

Me and my wife live all alone

In a little log hut we call our own;

Ha, ha, ha, you and me,

Little brown jug, 'tis you and me.

Check It Out: The Glenn Miller Orchestra is alive and well on the Internet at www.glennmillerorchestra.com and on Facebook. Along with the Platinum "In the Digital Mood" CD, music director Larry O'Brien has recorded other albums with the Big Band Express. Finding some of its most ardent fans in our region, the G.M. Orchestra will return to Vermont and New York's North Country under a new music director in 2011. Stay tuned.

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