Story Walk: music

Story Walk: "music"

Big Bands Visited Rochester by Susan Nurse for her mother Marjorie Van Ryne Fisher

People may recognize the names of Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Fred Waring as leaders of big bands that traveled the country in the 20s, 30s, and 40s,bringing their music to a wide audience. The tours were sponsored by Cigarette companies (Chesterfield brought Fred Waring and Glenn Miller for instance). To reach an even bigger audience, radio feeds were set up to broadcast part of the show over the radio.

It may come as a surprise to find out that all that music also took place in Rochester, specifically at the University of Rochester. My mother, Marjorie Van Ryne Fisher and her fiance Don Fisher, my dad, greatly enjoyed these big bashes, and danced the night away many times during her time at the UR (1937-1941).

One particular dance was very memorable. The weekends were called Inter-Fraternity Weekends and were billed as the "last period of rest and relaxation before the final pre-examination grind". The weekend of May 15th - 17th 1941 began on campus with the hit play "You Can't Take It With You" by the UR Stagers in Strong Auditorium. But the big night was Saturday- May 17th with Tommy Dorsey's band and special guests entertaining from the stage at Cutler Union on the Women's Campus on Prince Street. Dorsey was bringing the quartet the "Pied Pipers" and singer Connie Haines. An unknown singer was being introduced - Frank Sinatra! The paper even mis-spelled his name as Sonatra! My mother remembers the disappointment in not knowing who this guy was. They really liked his singing that night, but commented on how skinny he was. At the band's break, my mom & dad went up on stage and chatted with him. He didn't seem much older than they were!

About half way through the second half of the concert, a direct feed of the dance was broadcast nation-wide over the Columbia Broadcasting System. The dance ran from 10PM to 3AM.

Each dance had it's own theme and the girls were all issued small "dance cards" some just folded paper, some very elaborate with attached charms, keys, pencils, and even hammered copper covers!