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A Tribute to Tommy Banks


Don Berner is a man on the move. From his car, between gigs, with a safe, hands-free phone connection, he took time to tell us about the Don Berner Big Band’s upcoming season, including the opening concert, A Tribute to Tommy Banks.

He says it feels right to kick off the season with such a concert. “We are moving into the Triffo Theatre at MacEwan University, and Tommy was such a supporter and builder of the music program there.”

He adds, “We wanted to do something for Tommy. I asked the family’s permission, so the timing would be right. And this ensemble is, in many ways, an attempt to embrace traditions that Tommy started in this city. We want to live up to his examples of professionalism and musicianship.”

Berner is excited about the whole season that’s planned. “The opener is going to be great, because a lot of the musicians are people who played with Tommy. Then in December we’ll have a Christmas show that features the music of Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald.”

A concert with Melissa Aldana, a Chilean-born saxophonist, will be presented in March. Then, he says, “We wrap up our season in June with a collaboration concert with the Rhythm Gunners Big Band. Two big bands on stage means dozens of musicians!”

When asked about the enduring appeal of big band music, Berner says simply, “It’s fun. It’s bombastic, and it’s rooted in American swing and jazz. And people love the energy of loud horns.”

A Tribute to Tommy Banks will take place October 7 at the Triffo Theatre at MacEwan University. Tickets are available at and will be available at the door as well. 

Get info about the whole season at