His bass instincts

Glen Roberts performed big band music during its heyday in the 1940s and fondly remembers getting the chance to play with the Stan Kenton Orchestra.

"I traveled for a month with the Stan Kenton Orchestra and it was a dream come true," the Burbank resident said. "He was my hero in high school and college."

They played all the great clubs of the time, most notably the Blue Note, one of the top clubs in Chicago, he said.

Roberts has continued to play his string bass over the years while building a career in child psychology. He was the first paid staff member of the Verdugo Mental Health Center, serving Glendale, Burbank and La Cañada Flintridge. His Glen Roberts Child Study Center is celebrating 20 years in Glendale.

Now he leads the Glen Roberts Big Band, which performs at nonprofit events, most recently the Taste of Downtown Glendale benefit for Glendale Healthy Kids. The band also plays from 7:30 to 9 p.m. each Wednesday night in the back room of Viva Fresh Mexican Restaurant in Burbank.

The band will be part of the entertainment lineup for the 10th annual "A Midsummer Night's Cuisine" from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday at Holy Family School in Glendale. This year's theme is "Jubilee," in honor of the 100th anniversary of the parish.

Proceeds go to the scholarship endowment fund, said Brad Thomas, event manager and master of ceremonies.

"The reason we started it was we had kids coming to enroll in the grammar and high school who could pass the entrance exam, but the parents couldn't afford the tuition," Thomas said. "In the high school, 45% of the students are on scholarship. The event allows us to educate needy kids."

This year's event features epicurean delights from 22 area restaurants, including, from Glendale, Far Niente Ristorante, Minx, Tam O'Shanter Inn and Porto's; United Bakery of Burbank and J.J.'s Steak House in Pasadena.

The entertainment includes the production of the Broadway play "Nunsense" and features actors who have appeared on Broadway, Thomas said, including Joan Almedilla, of Glendale. She's performed in "Miss Saigon" and "Les Miserables."

"It's a farce," he said. "It's funny but moving in a lot of ways. It's about a group of nuns and the chief nun is called Julia Child of God. It's fun for the whole family."

The evening also features silent and live auctions and raffle prizes.

Grand raffle prize is a choice of $25,000 or a new car, with models ranging from a Jeep Wrangler to a Nissan Altima Hybrid or a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

The silent auction offers gift baskets, said Phil Rapa, chief development officer for the Holy Family Catholic Community.

"A man's gift basket is filled with cigars and cognac," he said. "Disney provided a beautiful basket with Disney memorabilia, and athletic-themed baskets have autographed baseballs signed by Nolan Ryan and an autographed USC Trojan football."

A highlight is the Excellence in Education awards to the late Msgr. Lawrence Caruso, the former principal of St. Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge, which will be presented posthumously to Rick and Tina Caruso, longtime supporters of Catholic education, Thomas said. Also being honored are Msgr. Arthur Lirette, pastor emeritus at Holy Family Parish, and Father Joseph Shea, who is only the fifth pastor in the parish's 100 years.

Following the musical, the stage will be replaced with a dance floor featuring music by the Glen Roberts Big Band, Thomas said.

"People have a ball with the entertainment, food and dancing," he said.

"It brings everybody together and it's a real sense of community."

The band will be playing swing music, like that of Glenn Miller and Stan Kenton, and Latin music, including rumbas and salsa, Roberts said.

Playing the swing music stirs a lot of memories for listeners, he said.

"When the public hears Glenn Miller, they talk about high school, or prom or the girl they dated in high school," he said.

"The music tends to stimulate memories that don't come into consciousness otherwise."

It's not just the harmony but the songs have strong themes, he added.

"You can sing or hum them. There is something about the melody that's not easy to retain in modern music. The themes are melodic."

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