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Del Bergeson Orchestra swings big band action

Del Bergeson Orchestra at the Timbers of Shorewood

When Jay Mau of the area’s renowned Jay Mau Orchestra decided to retire, another member, Del Bergeson of Joliet, stepped up.

As the Del Bergeson Orchestra, Bergeson is continuing Mau’s legacy of traditional Big Band melodies, contemporary pop songs and dance hits, along with audience interaction.

“Music is the soundtrack of our lives,” said Bergeson, trombonist, director, arranger and vocalist.

This new ensemble plays weddings, corporate events, fundraisers, parties and festivals. It will perform Thursday at The Timbers of Shorewood retirement community.

Bergeson formed his orchestra with six veteran musicians from the Mau orchestra, seven new musicians, including a fourth saxophonist and a guitarist, and a vocalist. Each of the Del Bergeson Orchestra’s 13 members possess at least 25 years of professional music experience. Several teach at the university level.

Members of the orchestra include Sandi Haynes (vocalist and flute) of Glendale Heights, Ray Mitchell (alto and tenor saxophone) of Ottawa, Jerry Luzeniecki (baritone saxophone and tenor saxophone) of Bradley, Shawn Maxwell (alto, tenor saxophone and flute) of North Aurora, Bob Ferraris (electric bass and acoustic bass) of Joliet, Geno Sciacca (drums) of Lemont, Tom Drake (baritone saxophone and tenor saxophone) of Lockport, Bob Skallerup (trombone) of Wheaton, Paul Johnson (keyboard) of Joliet and Patrick Wright (trumpet) of Bourbonnais.

Del Beregson Orchestra Brass Section at the Timbers of ShorewoodBergeson’s Joliet musical roots sink deeply in gospel and jazz. He played trombone during his grade and high school years. He also directed theater orchestras, worked with vocal and swing ensemble projects, arranged music for small instrumental combos and performed throughout the Chicago area.

After graduating from the former Joliet East High School, Bergeson drove back and forth from Western Illinois University in Macomb to play two seasons with the Old Chicago Mall Circus Band and the Shiners Circus Band.

“I’d leave after my 8 (a.m.) class on Friday and play three shows a day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday then drive back, get in late and be in class Monday at 8 (a.m.),” Bergeson said. “It was a crazy couple of years, but it was fun and I made some extra money to pay for college.”

Later, Bergeson played with Pyramid, in its “Chicago” style horn section, as well as the 10-member praise ensemble Perfect Union. Bergeson has also performed with Don Shire of Don Shire Ministries, whom he met years ago when both belonged to the Christian Youth Center in Joliet. Bergeson has also played with Dave Boyer.

“Dave used to do Big Band stuff with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. until he went from secular music to Christian,” Bergeson said. “I’ve had him at several different churches when I was in charge of the music and we’d put together a Big Band so he could perform with live music.”

Now that Bergeson, who played trombone and sang hits by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Sammy Davis Jr. with Mau’s orchestra, is overseeing his own ensemble, he plans to build upon Joliet’s satisfaction with their music.

“I’d like to extend our reach into Chicago,” Bergeson said. “From a musician’s standpoint, I want to make other people happy, too.”

By Denise Baran-Unland
The Southtown Star – September 13, 2012