Auburn Knights Orchestra Alumni to Present Reunion Concerts

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Pictured are members of the current Auburn Knights Orchestra at an event in Birchwood, Tennessee. Originally formed in 1930, the professional big band will perform as part of The Auburn Knights Alumni Association’s annual reunion on July 9 and 10 at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort and Spa at Grand National. Photo credit: Michael Pendowski. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY PATRICK MCCURRY

CONTRIBUTED BY PATRICK MCCURRY

On Friday and Saturday, July 9 and 10, the Auburn Knights Alumni Association will present three public concerts and a poolside barbecue as part of its 54th reunion at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort and Spa at Grand National.

Friday’s ticketed concert will be from 7 to 10:30 p.m. and will open with the current Auburn Knights Orchestra, a 20-piece, professional big band formed in 1930. Also performing will be three other big bands showcasing music from the 1930s to the 1960s.

On Saturday, a poolside jazz jam session and barbecue will start at 11 a.m., followed by a free matinee big-band concert at 2 p.m. Both of these events will be open to the public.

The Saturday evening show, also ticketed, will be from 7 to 11 p.m. and will feature three big bands showcasing music from the 1970s to the 2000s. It will close with an encore performance by the current Auburn Knights Orchestra.

Tickets for the evening concerts and meal tickets for Saturday’s barbecue can be purchased at the door or online at auburnknightsalumni.org.

Inspired by hugely popular groups like those led by Guy Lombardo, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey and Duke Ellington, students at Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University, started the Auburn Knights Orchestra to perform gigs and shows throughout the southeastern United States.

Pictured is the 1937 Auburn Knights Orchestra. The professional big band, still in operation though with different members, will perform as part of The Auburn Knights Alumni Association’s annual reunion on July 9 and 10 at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort and Spa at Grand National. Photo courtesy of the Auburn Knights Collection, Auburn University Archives.

The Auburn Knights Alumni Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a membership of over 400 former players and others connected with the band. In addition to organizing its yearly reunion, the group accepts donations for scholarships that it awards to members of the current band who are also enrolled at Auburn University.

Joe Daughtry is the president of the association. He played trombone with the Knights in 1978-79.

“I have never, ever seen anything like what we do at the reunion,” Daughtry said.

“Where else could you go to hear music from every era of the big-band sound?”

Daughtry said the Knights are the longest playing big band in the United States.

Performers at all events will include former and current members of the Auburn Knights Orchestra as well as guests.

Tim Burgess, director of event management at the hotel, said that some COVID-19 measures will be in place, and they are asking attendees to use their best judgement and to work within their own comfort zones.

Seating will be spaced out more than usual in the ballroom where the bands will play, and some open space will be available for people to distance themselves. Hand-sanitizing stations will be available, and masks are strongly recommended in the hotel’s public areas.

Tickets for the evening concerts are $15, $10 for students. Children 12 and under will be admitted free. A discounted rate of $25, $15 for students, covers both evening concerts. A cash bar will be open each night during the concerts.

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