While the Shell Rock Swing Show has fallen victim to the COVID 19 pandemic, the Shell Rock Music Association still remains alive and well at Shell Rock. Over thirty members recently met at the Riverview Café to socialize and decide what to do next.
Karen Peterson, board member and hostess familiar with every Swing Show, announced in her powerful stage voice, “Here comes Larry! as Mayor Larry Young, the show’s longtime emcee, entered the venue and everyone cheered. Peterson then called the group to place an order and circulated an updated contact information sheet.
The feisty musicians, singers and dancers hadn’t met in a big band in more than two years, which is unusual for this tight-knit group of talented friends and colleagues who had devoted several nights a week to practicing and performing. planning for months every year. before each April spring swing.
As an essential component of the social capital of the Shell Rock community, these musical soldiers were not going to let a global pandemic undo what they had built and celebrated for over 50 years. Several members appeared wearing Swing Show t-shirts from previous years, noting the strong bond they feel for each other.
And celebrate that they did! The first item on the agenda was the presentation of a lifetime achievement award for singing, dancing and speaking to Cathey Avery, after which the band responded with a hearty chorus of “Celebration! “
The group then set about the serious task of deciding their fate. Vice President Jim Gates reviewed the distinction between the Music Association and the production of the Swing Show and their history together.
The Music Association is a non-profit organization established in 1972 to manage the commercial side of the Swing Show performance event, which began in 1965.
Board member Shoshanna Coon discussed the association’s financial situation. Although there are enough funds to pay for the storage facilities that house the existing staging through mid-2020, and MercyOne continues to allow them to store material upstairs, there is no not enough funds to get the Swing Show back on the road without significant donations. and grants. Funding grants of the necessary magnitude may also require a change to their nonprofit status.
Besides funding, there are other obstacles. The popular Swing Show event had grown to 14 performances over two weekends each spring. In addition to local and regional residents, the shows were packed into several tour buses from Iowans across the state eagerly awaiting this highly professional event. It was a colossal undertaking for the town of 1,400 people.
COVID-19 put an end to the momentum the group maintained year after year with its recruitment of talented singers, dancers and musicians from all over the region, not to mention the volunteers who coordinated costumes, sets, sound. and managed ticket sales and publicity. .
Over the past two years, several key participants have been lost, and slowly over the past 50 years, others have aged. The group acknowledged that the pandemic had forced them to realize their limits and establish a new normal.
“We started small by filling a need in the community,” Vice President Jim Gates said. “Over the years, we have met a variety of musical entertainment needs. We need to start over and start small, and then see what comes of meeting the needs of our evolving community.
“We just don’t have the resources to redo 14 shows over two weeks,” Gates said. “Let’s see what we can do if we don’t have such high expectations in terms of time to practice and memorize the music.”
The band thought about ways to keep the music within the Shell Rock community and keep their social interaction alive. They discussed ideas for different venues and events involving varying numbers of attendees. Suggestions ranged from singing Valentine’s Day to a dinner theater, noting that such events have been well received in the past.
They also discussed coordinating a Sunday in the Park event during the 4th of July weekend festivities. Band gigs were also suggested with the recognition that they might bring back some band members for events that didn’t require as large a time commitment as the Swing Show.
Other ideas included providing small business entertainment and the local farmer’s market. Members were invited to sign up for sites they would support.
The meeting ended with each person tasked with seeking more ideas about the needs of the community as a whole and recruiting new members, especially younger ones.
“At first, the Music Association was an outlet for people to continue to be interested in music from high school and college,” noted Ted Scheidel. “It’s a shared interest. This is how young people started years ago. They were looking for an outlet, and they still are. This is how we can attract more new people now.
The band said the Shell Rock Music Association intends to serve their community for another 50 years or more because of their strong passion for music and vibrant community spirit. The meeting ended with a rousing chorus of a song written for the association by its founder, Dr. Dale Everson, “We’re from Shell Rock, ….so we’ll sing, and we’ll shout it, ’cause we’re so proud of it, yes, Shell Rock is our hometown!
Potential new members and Music Association talent inquiries can contact Rosemary Weidler, Board Member, Co-Secretary, at [email protected] for more information.