Ken Todd was not deterred when his first teacher barked at him and said, ''I could teach more to a monkey.'' He picked up his sticks and joined the junior high band and he was off on a long career. High school music was followed by a stint with the Dan Ramsey Orchestra that ended in 1963 when he joined the Air Force, was assigned to Keesler AFB and joined a modern jazz quartet. A transfer to Shaw AFB in Sumter, S.C. allowed him to rejoin the Ramsey band before being transferred to Berlin.
After discharge he swapped his drums for a new suit, got married and moved to Washington with the Department of Defense. Transferred to Bad Aibling, Germany, he hooked up with a big band and played five years. Returning home he played with the Bay Side Big band out of Annapolis before being transferred to Harrogate, England where he joined the Par Five Jazz Orchestra, later organizing his own band, The Colonial Cousins. He retired in 1997, returned to his native Gastonia, N.C. and didn't play for a year until doing some work with The Basics, a rock group. When he couldn't find a big band to join, he and his brother, Bill, organized The StarDusters.
Ben Reavis, alto sax, doubles on clarinet
Ben fell in love with the saxophone at a very early age listening to recordings of Glen Miller and Duke Ellington. Close harmony of five saxes was something he dearly loved. At age 14 he performed in his first swing band. His favorite memory from this band was playing the solo to “Misty” in a swing band competition at Wake Forrest University.
After graduation from Gardner-Webb University and helping to establish an IT based business, Ben was able to re-kindle his performance time by playing with the Oasis Shrine Band in Charlotte. For over 18 years he travels around the Carolinas playing from concert halls to parade routes. He led the Shrine Band as Captain. Ben is also a long standing member of the Oasis “Nostalgia” big band and also performs with the Gaston Symphonic Band on baritone sax and is as a board member and concert producer.
This web site, thinkswing.com, is designed and maintained by Ben.
Jim Daley, tenor Sax, doubles on clarinet and flute
A native of Akron, Ohio, and son of a 1940’s local big band leader, Jim Daley started on the alto saxophone at the age of 8. His fondest memory of high school was performing in the 17 piece Dance Band. Upon his return from the US Army in 1968, Jim played regularly with several local Akron night club groups prior to joining the Akron Big Band in 1988. Jim moved to Charlotte in 1995, and retired in 2000 as the Manager of Corporate Engineering Purchasing at General Tire. He ended a long career as a men’s fast-pitch softball pitcher in 2006 at the age of 61, and was the pitching coach for the UNC Charlotte Women’s Softball Team from the 1997 through the 2008 season. He has been the pitching coach at Belmont Abbey College since 2009.
Along with the StarDusters, Jim also plays with the “Strictly Dixie” Charlotte Dixieland band and Charlotte’s Oasis Shriner “Nostalgia” big band. Jim and his wife Diane reside in Pineville, and have two grown children and four grandchildren.
Sean Dunn, baritone sax, doubles on alto sax and clarinet
Sean was born January 21st, 1987 in Lexington, NC and moved with his family to Gastonia, NC in 1995. He attended Forestview High School, where he was an outstanding music student, participating in marching band, jazz band and several student ensembles. He graduated in 2005 and went on to Mars Hill College on a music scholarship, where he also took an active role in every aspect of the music department.
Though he has experience on all the saxophones (except the Bass Saxophone, which is an ongoing goal), Sean's instrument of choice is the Baritone. His father, Greg, also plays alto saxophone with the band.
Greg Dunn, alto sax, doubles on clarinet
Greg's love of the saxophone started, oddly enough, with the trumpet. "I started on trumpet in elementary school, but after two weeks the director decided that I was so bad, he moved me to alto sax."
After attending East Carolina University on a music scholarship, Greg put the horn down for nearly fifteen years. He returned to the saxophone when both of his children began playing in the school band. As a way to spend more time with his kids, the three of them joined the Gaston Symphonic Band. He also fills in when needed with the Oasis Shrine Band in Charlotte.
Greg and his beautiful wife Anita reside in Gastonia with their two children Laura and Sean .His son Sean is the baritone sax player for the StarDusters. Laura is a 2003 graduate of Forestview High School and is currently enrolled in college. Greg's full time job and other passion is golf and he is a class A member of the PGA of America.
Bill Dunlap, supernumerary sax
Bill Dunlap was born in Charlotte and lived most of his life in Wingate, NC. Bill is a musical instrument repair technician and did this full time for about 20 years before changing careers.
He has played with the Wingate College Orchestra and Bands and served as volunteer assistant director of bands at Wingate College. Bill has also performed with the Union Symphony, Charlotte Philharmonic Orchestra, Charleston Southern University Band, Charleston (SC) Community Band, Gaston Symphonic Band, and Charlotte Concert Band.
“I’ve always felt like I was born about 50 years too late…I should have been in a Big Band in the 1920’s/1930’s. The StarDusters has given me that opportunity and I thoroughly love playing in this wonderful group”.
Jacob Drum, Tenor sax, doubles on clarinet
Jacob Drum was born in Columbia, and grew up in Lincolnton, NC. In his school band he played the saxophone. Jacob also performed as a member of the Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps from 2002-2005. He studied at UNCC before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps. Jacob served as a member of the Air-Ground Combat Center Band in Twentynine Palms, CA, and performed various musical genres in a recording session to aid the Marine Corps recruiting efforts. After the Marines, Jacob returned to UNC Charlotte as a music performance major.
Jacob is a charter member of the Charlotte Hornet’s Buzz City Brass and co-founded The People's Brass Band. He works as a freelance musician, arranger, and composer in the Charlotte area. He has a heart for ministry and sharing the gospel and love of Jesus Christ
Warren Strum, trombone
If things get a little crazy on the dance floor and you sustain a tooth injury, trombonist Warren is the person to see. He’s been a practicing dentist in Charlotte for over 20 years.
Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Warren played with classical, rock, and jazz groups in college. While in dental school, he was a founding member of the First John Philip Sousa Band in the twin cities. Since coming to Charlotte in 1981, Warren has played frequently with the Charlotte Concert Band, and with some amateur orchestras.
He and wife Judy have four children, three of them brass players (one trombone, one trumpet, one french horn—almost a brass choir!). When not working on teeth or playing his horn, Warren can be found on one of the area’s mountain bike trails.
Dave Hurwitz, trombone
Dave moved to the Charlotte area in 2013 after moving around the country in search of big bands to play with! (Just kidding, but he has moved a lot!) He played for many years with the Otsego (MI) Jazz Ensemble and while in the Bay Area, he played with the Contra Costa Jazz Band and the Walnut Creek Big Band. He also played with big bands in Phoenix, Hackettstown, NJ and with the Penfield (NY) Rotary Band. He got his start in 4th grade on Long Island playing the Baritone Horn and still uses the mouthpiece he purchased from his band director there! Dave lives on Mountain Island Lake with his wife Leslie and Labrador Retriever Henry. In addition to playing trombone, Dave also plays blues guitar and recently started a Sunday blues jam at T’s Fat Parrot. When not playing (or listening) to music, Dave also enjoys water skiing and snow skiing.
Roger H. Myers, trumpet
Roger's love of music began when he was in the eighth grade and has been growing ever since. In between he has had two careers of equal duration ----- 14 years as a textile manager for Ti-Caro Inc., a textile corporation, and 14 years as a high school mathematics instructor. He has held the same position as director of music at Lutheran Chapel Church for 20 years. At North Gaston High School, where he graduated with honors, he played baritone horn, French horn and trumpet, eventually making the trumpet his main instrument.
At Mars Hill College he played with the symphony and stage bands until he graduated cum laude with degrees in mathematics and music education. He played with Coming Up Brass, a beach and rock band for five years, and has been with the Gaston Symphonic Band for nine years. He is one of the original members of The StarDusters. Roger's wife, Jeanette, is a middle school band director and their two sons, David and Seth, are brass players with the Gaston Symphonic Band.
Jimmy Branham, trumpet
Jimmy played trumpet at East Gaston High School in the concert, jazz, and marching bands. After high school he married his high school sweetheart, set aside his trumpet and went to work.
Fourteen years later Jimmy ended his hiatus from playing by volunteering to play Taps for the funerals of American veterans with Bugles Across America. Soon after joining Bugles Across America he got the itch to play music in an ensemble and joined the Gaston Symphonic Band where he met Ken and Bill Todd of the StarDusters and eventually became a regular member. Jimmy is very much a student of music and considers his time with the StarDusters to be an education in swing.
Jimmy and his Melissa have two daughters that keep him busy when he is not playing music and working as Operations Manager for FleetNet America
Jim Poag, trumpet
Jim started playing the trumpet in the seventh grade due to a situation similar to Greg Dunn’s but reversed. His dad was a fine tenor sax player, but Jim’s hand’s were not big enough to play the instrument. Jim studied and played under Frank Widenhouse in Belmont and played in a seven piece combo during high school, coincidentally called The StarDusters! He attended UNC Chapel Hill where he played with The Continentals and The University Concert Band.
He married while in college and transferred to the University of Georgia where he graduated with a BBA in Marketing/Sales Management and then worked for Beltex Corporation in Belmont and co-founded Fun Tees, Inc. and Gaston Screen Printing. He retired in 2003 after thirty five years as a textile executive.
After college, he did not play for over ten years and started back by playing in church, for weddings and with The Gaston Symphonic Band. The opportunity, however, to play with The Star Duster’s big swing band for the past several years has fulfilled a lifelong dream.
Jim and Beverly live in Gastonia NC and have three grown children and three grandchildren. Besides music, he loves golf, photography and traveling.
Crown Hoffman, Trumpet
Crown Hoffman began playing the trumpet in the fifth grade, then at North Gaston High. He was one of the first student members of the Gaston Symphonic Band. Crown furthered his music education at Lenoir-Rhyne University where he studied Sacred Music and performance.
Crown attended graduate school at Logan University in St. Louis, Missouri where he received his Doctorate of Chiropractic degree as well as advanced training in alternative medicine, human biology, and traditional Chinese Acupuncture . In 2005 he began his practice in Gaston County and once again picked up his trumpet performing with the Gaston Symphonic Band, as a church musician, and most recently in 2014 a member of the StarDusters Big Band.
Crown enjoys spending time outdoors hiking and exploring the natural beauty of North Carolina with his wife, Dr. Kate Hoffman and their two children, Jordan and Elena.
James S. Blair, Jr., Guitar, vocals
Jimmy is a musician with talents equally adept at playing several instruments but found his first love to be the guitar. While growing up in Gastonia his love of music emerged when he started out and became a proficient trumpet player. Through junior high, senior high and college he sat as the first-chair horn. While love of music was unabated, Jimmy didn't find the fulfillment he desired. Then he remembered the guitar, an instrument he tinkered around with in high school and that settled the issue. He sold his trumpet at a yard sale and concentrated on guitar.
For the past forty years he has played a variety of music including Rhythm and Blues, Rock, Swing and Jazz. He is an original member of The StarDusters where he adds variety to its repertoire as a sometimes-vocalist. Jimmy is a 1968 graduate of The Citadel, owns a textile sales and internet consultant agency. His work takes him through North Carolina and Virginia. His hobbies include water skiing, snow skiing and golf.
Bromley Sargant, Bass
Marti Wetzell, Vocals
Marti says coming back "home" to Gastonia has been one of the best decisions she has ever made. Having grown up here as the oldest of the four Wetzell sisters, Marti is no stranger to musical performance. She sang her first notes in the children's choir at First Presbyterian Church of Gastonia and through subsequent years has sung in many other fine church choirs. She is presently a member of the Chancel Choir at First United Methodist, Gastonia.
Marti enjoys various flavors of musical performance, having sung with musicians in the jazz, top 40 and sixties genres and has a special zeal for contemporary Christian and worship music. She considers it a privilege to be part of The StarDusters. Marti is enjoying life staying busy pursuing her passion of music, closely followed by socializing with family and friends, old and new.
Gerald Ligon , Bass Trombone
Bill Todd, Director
After a career in commercial and Naval Aviation, Bill helped his brother Ken organize The Stardusters in 1999. He is the music director and occasional trombonist. He also plays trombone with the Gaston Symphonic Band and freelances a bit locally.