News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Todd Hill Orchestra Performs at WKCTC as Featured Artist of the Season This Weekend

The Todd Hill Orchestra will perform as the WKCTC Clemens Fine Arts Center's featured artist of the season on Sunday, November 20th, at 2:30 pm.
Todd Hill Orchestra
The Todd Hill Orchestra will perform as the WKCTC Clemens Fine Arts Center's featured artist of the season on Sunday, November 20th, at 2:30 pm.

The WKCTC Clemens Fine Arts Center's featured artist of the season is the Todd Hill Orchestra, led by local bandleader, Cafe Jazz host, and Murray State Director of Jazz Studies, Dr. Todd Hill. Austin Carter speaks with Hill ahead of his orchestra's upcoming performance.

Despite the Todd Hill Orchestra performing repertoire that, at times, is pushing 100 years old, he says the band keeps things fresh by understanding, not replicating, the past. "You have to revisit the past to understand the present. By doing so, you're able to pick new arrangements and play things in new ways. You go in the spirit of—even 'in the style of' is too much a burden to bear. You go in the spirit of, and that's how you keep that fresh, whether it's students or professionals, either one."

The Todd Hill Orchestra is celebrating its 40th season this year, and Hill says that the steadiness of the ensemble has contributed to its tight sound and fresh performances. "The players have matured—that's a nice way of saying we're getting old together. The drummer, John Madole—we've been playing together since the fall of 1983. We met here at Murray State."

The fourteen-member horn section is led by one of Hill's former students, Dr. Derek Jones, who plays alto saxophone and clarinet. Jones has been playing with the orchestra for almost 37 years. Ped Foster leads the brass section on trumpet. But, Hill explains, the orchestra has also adopted new members recently.

"Our newest addition is [singer] Kayla Marie Little, who is with the Black Eyed Susans, her own band, Little by Little, and performs with a lot of people. She pays tribute to the great vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and Billie Holiday, but she's got her own thing going. She's got a remarkable sense of pitch. She understands the history but also has a pop ethos toward the future as well."

For the Clemens Center performance, the eighteen-member orchestra plans to celebrate this combination of old and new. "We're going to do a lot of powerhouse rep. We're going to pack as much into two hours as we possible can, everything from the 1920s up to much later than that."

Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Harry James, a little bit of Glen Miller, Ray Charles, and Les Brown," Hill continues. "We're really spreading out our repertoire there and a lot of great standards, famed vocal numbers, that I think people will really enjoy," Hill says.

"It's not going to be a lot of sameness. It will be continually moving, and the band is always
on top of that in a concert situation. They know it's very different from being in a dance environment. I will also say the Clemens Center is a wonderful place in that, for a big band, it's an intimate environment. And the crew there could not be better."

The Todd Hill Orchestra performs at the WKCTC Clemens Fine Arts Center on Sunday, November 20th, at 2:30 pm. You can buy tickets online, by calling the box office, or at the door. For more information and updates on the Todd Hill Orchestra, visit its Facebook page.

Austin Carter is a Murray State grad and has been involved with WKMS since he was in high school. Over the years he has been a producer for WKMS and has hosted several music shows, but now calls Morning Edition his home each weekday morning.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
Related Content