5 Questions with Jim Wonnacott

TOPSBigBandTrombonesJim Wonnacott is music director of TOPS Big Band, performing Nov. 12 at 12:10 p.m. as part of the BrownBag concert series. We recently had a quick chat with Jim to learn more about the group.

Q: Tell us about the program you have planned for the BrownBag concert?

Jim: The Cleveland TOPS (Tough Old ProS) Swingband will perform a variety of classic big band music featuring some of the top senior musicians and singers in northeast Ohio. The average age of the band is 76 years old. Founded in 2005 by Dick Wooley (retired) and Joe Trczinski, we continue to perform at senior retirement facilities all over Greater Cleveland.

Q: What do you love about playing in unique venues such as Trinity?

Jim: Since most of our performances are in nursing homes and retirement facilities which are often small, cramped spaces, the opportunity to perform in Trinity Cathedral for a large, responsive audience is like “a breath of fresh air” for us. It also allows us to reach a more diverse audience. It’s one of our favorite venues.

Q: What else do you have planned for the season?

Jim: We will continue our mission of Classic Big Band Music For Seniors By Seniors in spite of anticipated cutbacks in foundation funding for 2015.

Q: What first drew you to a career in music and keeps you inspired?

Jim: A congenital knee condition discovered when I was 12 years old steered me away from my dream of professional baseball and right into music. I am constantly inspired by the musicians of the Cleveland TOPS Swingband who are in their 80s, some close to 90 years old. They continue to play well and are dedicated to fulfilling our mission.

Q: To someone who may never have attended a BrownBag concert, what would you say to encourage one to attend?

Jim: Trinity Cathedral is a unique venue for concerts. Not only is it a beautiful structure in the tradition of European cathedral architecture, but big band swing music…in a church? Well, you’ve just got to be there. It sounds fabulous.