Local band to play at inaugural ball

One of New Haven’s best known big bands, the Pat Dorn Orchestra, was selected to play in its fourth presidential inauguration ball Saturday after winning a bid two weeks ago.

The band, composed of 18 members based in New Haven, but with members from all over the Northeast, played Lyndon Johnson’s inauguration in 1964 and then both of President Clinton’s inaugurations.

This year’s inauguration of President-elect George W. Bush will be different from the last, the band said. The Pat Dorn Orchestra will be among over 36 other performers, including Clint Black, Lyle Lovett and two other big bands.

Despite their experience in these high profile events, The Pat Dorn Orchestra is no less excited to play at this year’s inauguration.

“I am very thrilled, very honored to play in Saturday’s inauguration,” Dorn said, “especially because everyone thinks I am a strong Democrat because I played for Lyndon Johnson in 1964.”

Rolland Chirico, the lead trumpeter of The Pat Dorn Orchestra, said being chosen for Bush’s inaugural ball is a testament to the band’s success.

“It is certainly an honor to play such an exciting engagement,” Chirico said. “Everyone doesn’t get to play there, so we like to think that the Pat Dorn Orchestra is the best. Pat does get the best musicians from as far north as Massachusetts.”

In addition, the band has a long history of Yale Campus performances dating from the 1950s to their recent performance at the JE Spider Ball last year. During their circuit of Yale parties and balls, they have entertained for some of Yale’s most famous graduates, including Bush at a Delta Kappa Epsilon party in 1966.

Dorn credits Yale for his success on the road. During a Yale-Harvard weekend concert, the band was hired to play at a debutant ball in Virginia that led to a tour of every Southern state. While on this tour, Dorn learned about what it takes to be successful as a musician.

“Be yourself, don’t be a phony and people will help you out,” Dorn said.

Dorn noted that “engagements at Yale are not what they used to be,” reflecting on a passed era when glitzy swing parties were scattered across Yale Campus celebrating the football season. Nevertheless, the Pat Dorn Orchestra still enjoys playing for Yale students.

“It is always great when you are of the older generation,” Chirico said, “and find younger people enjoying your music.”

Although times may have changed at Yale over the half-century, the tradition of having the Pat Dorn Orchestra has not.

“The music really added to the atmosphere of last year’s Spider Ball,” Bikram Chatterji ’03 said. “Although swing is not typical Yale party music, everyone seemed to have a good time dancing to the Pat Dorn Orchestra.”

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