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August 16, 2017
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Dancing the night away with Moonlighters

  • Rohnert Park Cotati Regional Library Commissioner and member of Friends of the Rohnert Park - Cotati Library Barbara Mackenzie and her husband Rohnert Park Mayor Jake Mackenzie are seen tripping the light fantastic at the annual Moonlighters outdoor concert which is sponsored by The Friends of the Library. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Grant Wetmore
July 21, 2017

Around 6 p.m. on July 12, the ambient sounds of tuning instruments began to pick up as the Moonlighters, an 18-piece swing band, made their final preparations for their annual concert at the Rohnert Park Library on Lynne Conde Way. 

With their instruments tuned up, including saxophones, tubas, trumpets and the like, band director Tim Ellis stepped in front of the band and counted them in for their first song. 

For 15 years, the big band has been playing at the Rohnert Park Library every summer, an admission free event that is open to the public. The event is funded by the Friends of the Library, a non-profit volunteer organization. 

Rohnert Park Library welcomed the band and in a statement on the libraries’ Facebook page wrote of the band, “We at the Rohnert Park Library are pleased to welcome back the Moonlighters.” 

In addition to jazz music and old-style swing music, attendees also enjoyed free refreshments and food, such as mouth-watering garlic bread, pasta and salad, catered by Sally Tomatoes.

Mayor of Rohnert Park, Jake Mackenzie and his wife Barbara Mackenzie were seen at the event enjoying the music and dancing the night away. 

“It’s a wonderful community event”, said Barbara Mackenzie, a member of the Friends of the Library. “It’s a great way for people to listen to music, eat a meal and enjoy a fine summer evening.” 

In between songs, Ellis would announce the next piece while giving trivia and making a few jokes along the way.

“This is a tune called ‘I Remember You’”, Ellis said to the crowd. “I don’t remember who wrote it, I don’t remember when, but there you have it!”

The band was first founded in 1980 and its members range from 30 to 87-years-old. They play big band, swing and jazz music from the 1930s to the 1960s and have been performing for around 36 years, according to the event page for the concert. 

Ellis and the band’s conductor bought the rights to the band in the late 80s’ and have been making their mark in the local music scene ever since, having performed at over 40 concerts throughout the Bay Area from high school winter balls in Richmond to school fundraisers in the community, according to the band website, moonlightersmusic.sharepoint.com.

“In 1989, me and the band conductor bought the rights to the band”, Ellis said. “Which means we bought the music, the tuxes, and the equipment.” 

The band meets every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Stanroy Music Center in Santa Rosa to practice. Doors are always open and passersby are welcome to come in and listen.