Big Band: The Swing Solution

The Evergreen Valley College Flyer

By Darrius Thomas

Legal clerk, Evergreen Valley College student and big band singer to boot! With this much on her plate it's no wonder Joyce McCulloch only has time for one class!

The big band in question goes by the name of The Swing Solution, an 18-piece band that's been around since 1990 specializing in the big band sound and swing music. With weddings, summer concerts, art and wine festivals and nightclub performances, this musical group is very much in demand. And heading off this ensemble is the front woman and lead singer, Joyce McCulloch.

After a long history of performing on stage doing solo work and duets, McCulloch happened upon some members of The Swing Solution quite by accident while taking a music course at West Valley College.

They were in the process of looking for a lead singer and they liked what they heard from McCulloch, who ironically enough had no prior experience singing swing music.

"It was a totally different style from what I was use to," McCulloch said, "I had no big band experience. I was mostly involved with rock and music from the top 40s."

However, she grew to like the music because her parents are fans of the swing sound and discovered that she had a good voice for that style of music.

"This happened at the perfect time because my kids are all grown up," McCulloch said, explaining how she deals with her busy schedule of work, school and the stage. "I like an active life, I don't like sitting home watching TV every night."

But working 40 hours a week, plus making up the time spent in school, and rehearsal every Monday night on top of the performances can't be easy. "It's exhausting sometimes, being constantly on the go, but I'm happy, if I couldn't handle it I'd drop something."

The singer also said that being a member of The Swing Solution has helped break down age barriers as well as communication barriers with her children, who are also musically inclined.

"We relate through the music and share our own world together," she said. Even McCulloch's parents support her by going to performances to hear the music they grew up with.

When she first started singing for the band (taking over for the old singer who also played trombone) she had to sing from the charts that were already there, some of which were not in her key and a little old fashioned for her taste.

But by ordering and searching for charts in her own key and with a more contemporary sound, Joyce has more input now than ever on what material the band plays. "It was an older sounding band before, my style is a lot different than most big band singers."

"Even though most of her experience is in rock and pop music, and she has only a couple of years experience in swing, she's really good at it," said four-year band member Dave Satre, who is also the marketing director, Web page designer and a trumpet player. Satre also complimented McCulloch's ability to take a song and add her own creativity and drive to it. "She has a good feeling for style, she can take a piece of music and make it her own."

The Swing Solution gets the majority of its business through word of mouth advertising, in addition to a committee member who passes out business cards at performances and open rehearsals once a month. Although not many clubs are willing to hire an 18-piece band, The Usual has called for repeat performances. "There is definitely a love and demand for it among the younger crowd," said McCulloch.

"Fly Me to the Moon," "I'm Beginning to see the Light," "When I Fall in Love," and "Almost Like Being in Love", are just some of the tunes that The Swing Solution plays, as well as a lot of Count Basie.

McCulloch recalled the feeling she gets while singing for the crowd, "I feel like it's where I belong. All that music behind you is really exhilarating. They make me want to sing better."

McCulloch, however, does not feel she is at the same level of some singers who can scat sing and take off with the melody, but she expressed the desire to make that status.

She has also set no time limit for how long she plans to remain with The Swing Solution, since she feels loyal to the band for giving her a chance. "I would love to sing with a really well-known band, take a leave of absence and tour, but I'm not at that musical point in my life yet."

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