The Gainesville Swing Orchestra came into existence over thirty-five years ago when former Texas Governor Bill
Clements came to Cooke County to speak at a Chamber of Commerce Banquet. The band, then called the Cooke County Orchestra, was formed as the entertainment for the event. The group joined with North Central Texas Chorale, Gainesville Area Visual Arts, and Butterfield Stage Players to form the Cooke County Arts Council. Original members of the swing band came from Cooke County, Grayson County, and even some students and alumni from the University of North Texas. This amazing mix of talent still exists today, and in fact, we have one of the original North Texas Lab Band members playing with us today!
Our history is rich and varied: When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, a saxophone player stationed there and who was ashore during the attack, lost his horn when his ship sunk in the harbor. After the war, the ship was brought to the surface, and his horn was recovered! The horn was returned to him and restored to the point that he could play it with the Gainesville Swing Orchestra in the 1980’s. Many of GSOs alumni have had successful careers as professional musicians and teachers. For example, the head of the University of Texas at Arlington Jazz Department, Tim Ishii, spent many years playing with the orchestra while he worked on his Bachelors and Master’s degree. He credits that experience as helping him improve his musical skills. Other past members have performed with the Harry Connick Jr. Orchestra and the Count Basie Orchestra. It is not unusual to find past members’ names on professional recordings. Currently, Texas Swing legend Dave Alexander directs the group. Alexander has been named Entertainer of The Year by the Academy of Western Artists and has been recognized as having created the finest Western Big Band ever assembled to deliver his overwhelming performances. When he is not on the road, he brings his musical expertise to GSO.
The Gainesville Swing Orchestra has entertained audiences at a wide variety of events: Germanfest in Muenster, Texas; the Texas State Fair; The Grayson County Fair; Billy Bobs in Ft. Worth; Sherman's Hot Summer Nights; the grand opening of the Gainesville Outlet Mall; and Austin College’s Freshman Welcome Party, plus numerous reunions, wedding receptions, and concerts within a hundred mile radius.
Recently, the Gainesville Swing Orchestra has entertained audiences at the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, Camp Howze “History Alive Night on the Base,” and the Morton Museum's “Bootleggers Ball.” Every December, GSO puts together “A Swingin' Christmas” concert at the North Central Texas College campus in Gainesville, and in the spring they perform at the annual “Cooke County Arts Council Scholarship Fundraiser” concert.