Classical Music Inspires Swing

At this year’s Balboa Experiment, Kate Hedin played a set of Swing music that was “classically” inspired, meaning it had many riffs and themes lifted from or inspired by classical music.1 Mike Guzzo, a dancer from the East Coast and excellent DJ in his own right, kicked off an excellent Facebook discussion based around Kate’s inspirational set. For those of you who aren’t Facebook friends with Mike, I’ve compiled the highlights and songs contributed by other Swing music geeks here (most of them by Kate), hopefully inspiring you to find Swing songs with a connection to Classical Music. (Not all classically inspired Swing songs will be danceable, but are a lot of fun to hear!)


Swing Version Classical Version
Moon Love (Glenn Miller) Tchaikovsky 5th Symphony, 2nd Movement
Going Home (Glenn Miller) Deep River, Dvorak’s 9th
Caprice XXIV Paganini (Goodman) Caprice No. 24 by Niccolo Paganini
Peter and the Wolf (Goodman) Peter and the Wolf by Provofiev
Bounce of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kirby) Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”, from The Nutcracker
Swan Lake (Eddie Condon) Tchaikovsky – Swan Lake (Swan Theme)
Humoresque (Glenn Miller) Dvorak – Humoresque
Night on Bald Mountain (Mint Julep Jazz Band) Mussorgsky – Night On Bald Mountain
Chopin’s Minute Waltz (Charlie Ventura Septet) Chopin Minute Waltz
In An 18th Century Drawing Room (Raymond Scott)3 Mozart – Sonata #3 in C Major)
Prelude in C Sharp Minor (Jack Teagarden) Rachmaninov – Prelude in C Sharp Minor
Anitra’s Dance (Jack Teagarden) Grieg – Anitra’s Dance – Peer Gynt Suite
Prelude in G Minor (Jack Teagarden)4 Prelude in G Minor (Rachmaninoff)
Bacarolle (Jack Teagarden)4 Barcarolle (Jacques Offenbach)


1 Due to a broadcast boycott in 1941 when ASCAP tripled their licensing fees, bandleaders who wanted airplay recorded music that was in the public domain, from folk songs to classical music, in their preferred styles. [Source]

2 There’s a CD compilation of many classical inspired songs: Beethoven Wrote It… But It Swings

3 Raymond Scott has an interesting history and legacy, namely Powerhouse, which many will remember from a slew of Looney Toons cartoons.

4 You can find samples of the songs here.

DJ Battle of the Bands, Third Edition

20 September 2018, Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs, Austin, Texas

On March 7th, 1937, Chick Webb and His Orchestra were defeated by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra. Duke’s drummer, Sonny Greer, later stated “We tore them up, man!”

But the defeat was not to last. In an epic rematch, Chick (DJ Lian) squared off against Duke (DJ Gina) LIVE (via recorded music) at the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs and eked out a single vote victory over Duke. Both bands played great, reaching deep into their catalogs in an attempt to one-up the other player and entertaining the audience throughout the evening. Chick closed it out with Lindy Hopper’s Delight that culminated in a rousing jam circle!

The Winner: Chick Webb (DJ Lian)

Please enjoy the slide show that was presented with all the interesting facts for each of the bands, including a special spotlight on Ella Fitzgerald, the “first lady of song.”


References for the material:

  1. Duke Ellington – Wikipedia
  2. Duke Ellington – Official website
  3. Sonny Greer – Interview
  4. Sonny Greer – We tore them up, man!
  5. Ella Fitzgerald – Wikipedia
  6. Mary Lou Williams – Wikipedia
  7. Chick Webb – Wikipedia

A big thanks to Gina and Lian for their extraordinary DJing this evening!

Awesome Mix – 19 July 2018

As promised, we’ll be sharing set lists or highlighted songs for the various DJs from each Main Room evening. Below are the sets from the 19th of July. Please note that DJing is a skill and each set is created in real time based on the needs of the floor. The exact same songs could be played the following week, but in a different order to create a different feeling based on the dancer’s needs (not that any DJs would repeat the entire content of a set from week to week).

DJ Lian (9 to 10 PM)

Click the image to enlarge

DJ Joanna (10 to 11 PM)

Click the image to enlarge

DJ George (11 PM to 12 AM)


The Track Podcast

Ryan Swift is a photographer, dancer, and DJ based in NYC. He’s been dancing since 1998 and DJ’d around the world, DJing for numerous Lindy Hop exchanges, dance camps, weekend workshops, and competitions, including national events such as the International Lindy Hop ChampionshipsStompologyUltimate Lindy Hop Showdown & Frankie100, and at NYC events like Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing. He has also served as head DJ at events like LindyFest & Lindy Focus. (1) For more information about Ryan, visit his website.

He’s also been the host of Inside the Dancer’s Studio at LindyFest in which he’s asked extremely insightful questions of prominent members of the dance community, such as Dawn Hampton to top level instructors. In 2015, he launched The Track Podcast, where he does longer former interviews with musicians and dancers in the national scene today.

Definitely explore the whole catalog of episodes that are available at The Track Podcast, but I’ve highlighted a few episodes of interest to DJs and dancers below as it relates to playing music for dancers; a veritable who’s who of DJ’s and musicians in the modern scene today.  Each episode has show notes, so you can skip specific topics they cover.

Laura Windley

The Track  014 – Laura WindleyLaura Windley is the bandleader and vocalist for the Mint Julep Jazz Band, a featured band at Austin’s own Hot Rhythm Holiday. She’s been a special guest and vocalist for the Lindy Focus All Star Band, Michael Gamble’s various bands, and many others A renowned DJ in her own right, she has a deep knowledge of music and has been a DJ at events such as All Balboa Weekend, Eastern Balboa Championships, and many more. She is the author of Lindy Shopper. Here’s Laura singing Betcha Nickel at Lindy Focus in 2016 (if you have a keen eye, you’ll see former Austin resident Jonathan Doyle on the sax).

Key highlights for this episode: The whole thing!

Shana Worel

The Track 004 – Shana WorelShana Worel is a dancer, instructor, and DJ in Southern California. She’s been a featured DJ at All Balboa Weekend, Lindy Focus, California Balboa Classic, Camp Hollywood, Lindy on the Rocks, The Balboa Experiment, Rocky Mountain Balboa Blowout and many other events. Extremely well versed in music, she’s a valuable resource when it comes to playing music for Swing dancers and is more than happy to help new DJs learn (especially if that interest includes Lionel Hampton).

Key highlights for this episode:  what is the difference between music for Balboa and Lindy Hop, and a great discussion on the history of Balboa.

Jonathan Stout

The Track 008 – Jonathan Stout – Band leader, arranger, rhythm and lead guitarist, occasional drummer, dancer and DJ, Jonathan Stout is an impressive figure in Swing music. He leads the Campus Five (featuring Hilary Alexander) and The Jonathan Stout Orchestra (featuring Hilary Alexander), as well as a other projects.  Since 2015, he’s been the band leader for the Lindy Focus All Star Orchestra, a band that has produced some of the best and most energetic live music honoring the originals.  [See below for Lindy Focus Playlists (2)]

Key highlights for this episode: what makes a good song for swing dancing and a great discussion on musicality.

Josh Collazo

The Track 021 – Josh Collazo – Josh Collazo is the drummer for Jonathan Stout, the Lindy Focus All Star Orchestra, as well as a host of other bands in the Swing dance world. A band leader as well, he’s had a few projects, such as the The Feetwarmers, an LA based band; in 2015, he started the Candy Jacket Jazz band. He also is a dancer. Outside of the dance world, he plays drums for a little band called Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, a Grammy-winning and platinum-selling American rock folk band. Not only that, he is a dancer. [For an interview specifically about drumming, see below (3)]

Key highlights for this episode: the technique and music theory of what provides an authentic swing era sound, how his passion for swing dancing in the late 90s influenced his development as a drummer, and what it’s like to fill the shoes of drum legends like Gene Krupa and Chick Webb at the Lindy Focus tribute nights. (1)

Michael Gamble

The Track 015 – Michael Gamble – Asheville, NC native Michael Gamble wears many hats in the fifteen years he’s been swing dancing: Bandleader (Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders, bassist, arranger, transcriber, and DJ. He also one of the co-organizers for Lindy Focus, one of the largest, best run, and preeminent dance events in the US, not just as a dance camp, but as an event that works to further the Swing dance community through providing the high level instruction, the best music (the transcription projects! more on that in a future post), and being a leader in the Safe Spaces discussion and implementation of creating a welcoming and safe place for dancers. He’s been the head DJ for Beantown, Lindy Focus and the European Swing Dance Championships, and a featured DJ at Herrang Dance CampILHC, and the Lone Star Championships, to name a few.

Key highlights for this episode: how DJs carry the responsibility for furthering jazz literacy in an era focused on live music, and the the challenges of transcribing a classic swing song (1)

Rob Moreland

The Track 010 – Rob Moreland – For fifteen years Rob Moreland has been DJing for Swing dancers around the country, DJing long-running nationally-known venues in Raleigh, LA, New York City, Washington DC, Denver and other cities; one of the featured DJs at StompologySwing Out New Hampshire, and the Nevermore Jazz Ball..  He DJed at the Basie Centennial Ball in 2004 and in 2018 continues to be the head DJ for Lindy Focus.

Key highlights for this episode: DJ mistake horror stories, the differences between DJing at large national events and local regular gigs, preparing for gigs & contest music, and advice he’d give to new and aspiring DJs

If you would like to support the podcast, please contribute via Patreon ($1, $5, and other subscription options available)


1 – Copied shamelessly from The Track Podcast “About” page

2 – Lindy Focus Video Playlists:

3 – Josh talking about the evolution of drumming and how Swing is different than other forms of music – Josh on drumming.

DJ Battle of the Bands, Second Edition

January 2018, the Syndicate held its second Battle of the Bands for another energetic night of Swing greats!

This time, Chick Webb battled Jimmie Lunceford and Andy Kirk, brought to life through the best recordings by DJ Lian, DJ Keli, and DJ George, respectively. Andy Kirk was a surprise hit, but it was a close call between Jimmie and Chick!

The winner: Chick Webb (DJ Lian)!

Please enjoy the slide show that was presented with all the interesting facts for each of the bands, including a special spotlight on Mary Lou Williams, “One of the most brilliant Jazz pianists of all time.”


Interested in Learning to DJ?

Have you ever wondered what it takes to DJ? Maybe you’re just interested in how to keep a dance party going beyond just hitting “play” on a set list, or maybe you’re curious about DJing at the Fed on Thursday nights?

If you’re a full member of the Fed, you can go through our social dance DJ program for free. You’ll be mentored by some of the strongest DJs in the country (more than a couple of our DJs have worked national and international Lindy Hop and Balboa events), and learn their tips and tricks. Plus, you’ll learn about the history of the music that inspired the dance we love and enjoy on a weekly basis.

There’s no obligation to become a DJ, but we’re always looking for new people to put into our rotation!

For more information, fill out the form below and we’ll get you started in our next DJ Flight School!

Syndicate DJ Interest Form

  • Please enter your Spotify or YouTube playlist share link here, or create a set list (between 5 and 10 songs) by adding each song and artist you would consider during one of the hour-long DJ sets. It doesn't have to be perfect, we're just looking for a starting point and an intersection of what we expect when playing for Swing dancers. Alternatively, give us an idea of the events you've DJed in the past!
    Add a new row
  • Observer - you're interested in learning the mechanics and skills of DJing, but you don't want to DJ for the Syndicate.
    Substitute DJ - Assigned DJ slots in an as-needed basis and not regularly in the rotation
    Full Time DJ - DJs regularly for the Syndicate, namely in any of the three one-hour slots in the main room or any of the two one-hour slots in the side room on Thursday nights