The first incarnation of the band was the
Steam Band, a 10-piece unit
that played its first dance at the Wards Island Clubhouse on Toronto
Island in 1978. A few months later the band played the last big
dance in the Crystal Ballroom of King Edward Hotel, a Toronto landmark.
The Big Steam Band started as a rehearsal band
in 1984 with founding members, Dave Cooper, George DiCosmo, Blair
Drawson, Anita Levin and Jeff Mandel and two years later the
band performed a series of engagements at the Stage Door Café.
The band’s first singer was Louise Pitre, a seasoned musical
theatre performer in Ontario and Quebec. When Louise went on the
road she was replaced by Holly Cole. It was at a performance of
the Big Steam Band at the Salon Theatre in Queen Street West that
pianist Aaron Davis was first introduced to Holly’s singing.
Soon after they were joined by bassist Dave Piltch to form the Holly
In the late 80’s Smith became increasingly
involved in art projects, especially the magazine, the Journal of
Wild Culture, and the band was retired. Following his work on various
arts and activism projects in the 90s, he decided to resurrect it
in 1998. “I missed playing with the big band all those years,
so I thought I’d give it a try to see if I’d like doing
it, and if it interested the players.”
At a series of performance at the Bar Italia in
Toronto, the new band was launched featuring singers Alex Pangman,
Janice Hagan, Andrea Kuzmich and Daisy DeBolt. The response was
positive from section leaders, trumpeter Steve Crowe, trombonist
Colin Murray and saxophonist Andy Ballantyne, all who are still
with the band.
In 1999 the band produced its first CD, “Swing’s
Mistress,” featuring the vocals of Andrea Kuzmich, released
by Community Records. The album included three compositions by Whitney
In 2000, distinguished Toronto singer Cal Dodd
began to appear regularly with the band. Since then the band has
worked to develop its current repertoire of Whitney Smith songs
and instrumentals compositions.
The Head Arrangers of the Big Steam Band are Andrew
Jones (BSB, trombone) and Jake Wilkinson (BSB, trumpet; www.jakewilkinson.com).
Other arrangements are by Jim McGrath, Jason Logue, Andy Ballantyne
(BSB, alto sax), Terry Promane and John MacLeod. (To purchase Big
Steam Band scores and parts click on Scores & Parts.)
Michelle Doyle joined the band in 2003 as female
vocalist until 2007.
Thank you to all the players and fans who have
contributed to the life of the band over the years.
To hear some samples of the Big Steam Band's music, click
For fee information and availability please contact
Steve Crowe (lead), John McLeod, Sandy Barter, Jake Wilkinson.
Trombones: Gord Myers (lead), Andrew Jones, Jamie Stager,
Colin Murray (bass trombone).
Saxophones: Andy Ballantyne (lead alto, soprano, flute);
Bob Brough (alto, clarinet, flute); Scott Marshall (tenor, clarinet); Brendan Cassidy (tenor, clarinet);
Simon Wallis (baritone, bass clarinet).
Piano: Bernie Senensky. Guitars: Whitney Smith. Double
bass: Mark Cashion. Drums: Joel Haynes.
Percussion: Dick Smith.
(This list may or may not pertain to the band members available at the time of booking.)
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