Gateway City Big Band

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Tom CoxTOM COX

He plays great bone, but he is also responsible for the snaking cords and the distinctive band fronts being in place. He is Tom Cox, long-time band member and indispensable to the group.

Tom began playing trombone in 9th grade after playing trumpet for 5 years. He went on to study performance, theory and composition at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Tom is a Missouri native. He graduated from Fort Osage High School in 1976. In 1993, he decided he wanted to be in a people profession, and graduated from Meramec College and became a Physical Therapist. He is currently a Rehabilitation Program Manager at Jonesburg Nursing and Rehab Center.

Tom came to St. Louis and played in the Meramec kicks band. One of the members invited him to come sit in a Gateway City Big Band rehearsal. That was October, 1982, and he has been with the band since.

Tom's official title is "Equipment Manager" although he does much more than just set up and take down the band. Tom oversees equipment like the sound system, and can occasionally be seen dashing from playing his horn to the amplifier to adjust microphones. His energy seems limitless.

Tom says the Big Band is like family, although often you can spot his wife Bonnie or other members of his family in the crowd. At 45, Tom is happy being with the Big Band.

"Bob (Waggoner, former band leader) is putting us in touch with our "inner musician". The band under Bob's direction has allowed me to grow musically, so I can say with certainty that I am a much better player now than I was a year or two ago," Tom says. "I have confidence in the continued growth of the organization."


Karen SharpKAREN SHARP
Trombone/Vocals

Karen grew up in a home listening to all styles of music and was singing from the time she could talk, so it's no surprise that music is a big part of her life.

A graduate of Lindbergh High School, she was fortunate to have benefited from their highly-regarded music program, being invited to the MMEA conference in Tan-Tar-A with the Orchestra, Symphonic and Jazz Bands. She played and sang in a local classic rock group, Sundance and Brass, until she went away to college. At the University of Missouri-Columbia she played with the Jazz Ensemble and got her first experience singing with a big band. When the Jazz Ensemble director decided to have the band play the Lambert, Hendricks & Ross version of "Twisted", Karen's exposure to the swing and jazz genres helped her step out of the trombone section and clinch the vocalist spot.

After college, Karen hung up her horn for a few years before joining another big band in town where a Gateway member heard her and invited her to come sit in with the Big Band. She was asked to join at her first rehearsal in 1993 and after playing trombone with Gateway for a year, she started singing with them in 1994. She still thinks of herself as a trombone player who happens to sing.

In the Spring of 2001, Karen was asked to assume the responsibility for the band library upon the retirement of long-time librarian Jim Knox. She also is the trombone section's Section Leader and Recording Secretary for the Board of Directors. In that role, she keeps the band's extensive mailing list up to date and compiles the band schedules for the public and the members. She also works with the webmaster to maintain the band's website.

In 2005, Karen and trumpet section leader/front man Rick Sharp were married. In addition to playing in the Big Band, they enjoy playing often at church.


David StainesDAVID STAINES

David is a chemistry teacher in real life at Fort Zumwalt East High School in St. Peters, Missouri. He was born in the Buffalo, New York area and graduated from North Tonawanda High School. He has been playing trombone since the fifth grade. While he was in school, David played in school and American Legion bands. 

He had an uncle who played trumpet and was also a disc jockey that played the music of the big bands. That impressed him and, like all musicians starting out, David played in wedding bands. He was a member of the the Easy Street Big Band in Tonawanda, New York. Over the years he has played in many situations, including symphony music and a really memorable one at a gospel church on Easter Sunday where there was no written music.

David earned a Bachelor's Degree in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology at SUNY in Buffalo and an MSED in Chemistry and Education from SUNY Plattsburgh.

During his career, David has bounced between working in commercial biotech companies and teaching in high schools and community colleges. He enjoys teaching best of all. He has been married to his wife Gail for 29 years. Gail is a university librarian. Their son Ryan plays trumpet and is a music major at Truman State University.

David plays a small bore trombone, which he says is easier to play but still gets a big sound if it is played right. His favorite player is Ian McDougall for his sound and articulation. McDougall plays with Rob McConnell. Other trombone players he likes are Tom “Bones” Malone (Saturday Night Live band), Bill Watrous, Carl Fontana and Andy Martin (Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band). Currently, he is a member of the St. Charles Big Band, the St. Charles Orchestra and subs with the St. Louis Big Band.

David joined the GCBB in the Spring of 2014. He is pleased to be playing with a group whose level of musicianship is high. He likes the tight, in-tune sound of the band and feels like the band members know what they are doing on stage.


Sean BippenJAMIE BURCHETT

Jamie came with the best of references; his grandmother mentioned to trombone section leader Karen Sharp that Jamie was looking for opportunities to play and was “really good”. Of course Grandma said he was good – that’s what grandmas do, right? So we invited him in for some rehearsals about a year ago and the rest is history!

Jamie credits his parents for encouraging his musical aspirations. He grew up in Webster, graduating from Webster Groves High School, then went on to Illinois Wesleyan University (Music Education), Queens Col-lege NYC (Jazz Performance) and Michigan State University (Jazz Studies). Now he’s the Assistant Band Director back home at Webster Groves High School!

While away at school he worked for the Louis Armstrong Archives and performed in several ensembles, doing recordings in New York City. He toured Trinidad and Tobago with jazz ensembles from Michigan State and was part of the MSU trombone ensembles that won national and international competitions. Wow, that’s impressive!

Jamie says he enjoys playing with Gateway because he likes to perform for people who enjoy jazz and dancing. And being an educator, it probably doesn’t hurt that our mission is to support music education. As fortunate as we are to have him, we must admit that yes, Grandma, Jamie is really good!


Read about the other band members

Music Director  The Vocalists   Sax Section  Trumpet Section  Trombone Section  Rhythm Section  Retired Band Members