20 years of music, community and connections.
We could not be more thrilled to be celebrating two decades of music with this group. Throughout the years, MBJS has brought musicians together, contributed to local communities, and facilitated the growth and connection of a fantastic group of musicians.
Our humble beginnings
Our band was founded with a vision for autonomy and a desire to play in a band that fits that vision. In May of 2001, our founders (Dave Hiley, Sheilah Hammerton and Deb Watson) came together while sitting on the grass after a show they had performed in Canmore, and the Midnight Blue Jazz Band was born. The founders wanted to create a band where they had a say, whether it was who the artistic director would be, where they were going to perform or what type of music they would play.
“Our vision for the band was to simply have fun and create the musical experience that all of the band members wished to create. We picked and played the music we wanted, mostly because we loved the music and also to challenge ourselves and grow as musicians.”– Neil Deboni
During the summer of 2001, the band slowly began to grow as members were recruited. Those who joined the band fit the culture and were handpicked by the founders. Throughout that summer, secret meetings were held in their homes (the clandestine approach was necessary as members were recruited from other bands). After more discreet meetings and phone calls Midnight Blue Jazz Band reached out to Richard Condon, who became the first Director (and remained so for 12 years).
Midnight Blue struggled in the early years trying to host big band dances and recalls performing to small crowds at community centres and the difficulties of liquor licenses, liquor sales and ticket sales.
“Putting together our fundraising Big Band Dances back in the day (Lakeview, Acadia and Haysboro community halls), I was always in charge of organizing the snacks/food. Always we had Munchie Mix on the table, and usually sandwiches, veggies and dip, and dessert squares as a mid-event buffet. Trying to keep the cost to $5/head, without really knowing how many tickets we would sell was challenging. We didn’t make much on those fundraisers.”
– Amy Floyd
The first rehearsal space was at Bowness High School, then St. Joseph’s Elementary/Junior High.
“As the band continued to grow and evolve, so did the name. Our original name was the Midnight Blue Jazz Band. Once we established ourselves as a non-profit, we transitioned into the Midnight Blue Jazz Society. In our first year, we had members submit name ideas, and then we all voted to pick the name. Midnight Blue was my submission. Even though we had all come from an organization that named its bands colour names, that wasn’t where my thinking was. I was more focused on the word Midnight, which to me conjures up an idea of mischief, late-night possibilities, adult themes. Putting it together with Blue made me think of the night sky, with stars twinkling – fancy and sophisticated and special. Also, the feelings that Blue conveys…moody, thoughtful, maybe a little melancholy. It was never, in my mind, to refer to the Blues style of music! Over the years we have heard many different variations of our name at different gigs…Midnight Blues Band is the one that makes me laugh. I think of the audience that is expecting to hear the blues, and then they get us!”
– Amy Floyd
Reflecting on our history
Over the years, Midnight Blue Jazz Society has developed into an amazing band filled with incredible people.
“I can’t believe that it’s been 20 years. I feel proud to have been a part of MBJS, and I just went to the website and not only saw so many familiar faces, but the band logo (that I designed) is still there.”
– Diana Tower
Our decision to become a non-profit organization in 2013 was transformative.
“Without a doubt, this catapulted the band into a more professional genre. The casino funds allowed us to purchase equipment that no other band in Calgary has. I remember the first “shopping list” included band stands, sound equipment, moving trailer, a sound board, piano, amps and more. We now have two sets of uniforms, a baritone sax, a bubble machine, smoke machine, professional band fronts and signage, transportation boxes and cocktail drum kits. These casino funds have allowed us to travel to out-of-town performances and out-of-province music festivals.”
– Sheilah Hammerton
“Being a non-profit organization has allowed us to play in a ‘give back to the community’ spirit which I hope will continue. It is such a great and fun group to spend time with.”
– Myrna Michieli
“MBJS has surpassed my wildest dreams. We had a vision to play in a band where we could drive our own destiny and decisions and we accomplished that. We didn’t set out any short-term or long-term goals but rather just seemed to go one year at a time. I think it’s one of those things when you are so engrossed in something, it is your spark, you are enjoying yourself so much, time goes by without realizing it. We just wanted to have fun making music.”
We hope this tale of Midnight Blue Jazz Society has illuminated the essence of who we are, and that you have enjoyed the musical ride as much as we have. See you soon!
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”