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Aviation, jazz histories mesh in upcoming performanceAviation, jazz histories mesh in upcoming performance

The histories of powered flight and jazz—two uniquely American originals—will intertwine in an unusual live performance Oct. 3 at George Mason University’s Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, Virginia.

To Swing Through the Sky was written by Paul Glenshaw, who co-produced and wrote the documentary Barnstorming. It is directed by AOPA member Rick Davis, who is dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at George Mason University.

“The 20-piece Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra is providing the music,” Glenshaw said. “There’ll be swing dancers, and film projections—all supporting two characters who guide us through the uncanny parallels in the stories of jazz and flight. It’s amazing how they match up: the Wright brothers and Buddy Bolden; Charles Lindbergh and Louis Armstrong; Howard Hughes and Duke Ellington; Chuck Yeager and Charlie Parker. There’s many more.”

The 20-piece Metropolitan Jazz Band will perform the music in "To Swing through the Sky," a live performance that guides the audience through the parallels in the histories of jazz and aviation. Photo by Eric Spear.

“It tells the history of jazz and the history of flight so persuasively,” Davis said. Its brief script includes a “fun premise”: that two narrators—one representing jazz, the other aviation—are at separate conferences in a hotel giving “dry as dust” presentations on their topics. “The two stories get blown out of the water with the sound and image of a Beech Staggerwing that bursts onto the projection, and we’re off and running.” The narrators trade stories, and from that point on “it’s a joyous free-for-all about all the different points of connection between these two great American inventions,” he said.

A pilot since 1993, Davis said the history of aviation is “part of my world anyway,” and as he works in theater and music, the production was a natural fit for him. Davis is co-owner of a Piper Cherokee 140 that is based at Warrenton-Fauquier Airport in Warrenton, Virginia.

Tickets are available online at the Hylton Center website, at the ticket office, or by calling 888/945-2468. If you’re planning to fly in for the event, Davis would like you to know that the Hylton Center is just a five-minute cab or courtesy car ride from Manassas Regional Airport.

After the Oct. 3 performance, Davis believes To Swing through the Sky “may have a life after this. We’re putting together a really strong visual presentation that includes a lot of aviation footage that Paul has accumulated through his work as a historian.... We think it can be reproduced fairly easily [and] we’re hoping it finds a wider audience.”

AOPA Communications staff

Topics: Pilots

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