Monday, February 19th, 2018


River City Jazz

History of the River City Jazz Ensemble

River City Jazz was started in 1976 by Henry Swart, son David, and friend, Rudy Seadal. After many years with the band, Rudy left for health reasons. Henry is a veteran of an Air Force Band which toured with many of the stars of The World War II era. The musicians of River City Jazz come from a broad spectrum of the community; from school teachers and pharmacists to church musicians and businessmen. Entertaining through music has been a personal part of every band member’s life.

Playing for a variety of functions has kept the band busy for many years. They played at receptions honoring Presidents Bush, Ford, and Reagan, and for Governor Engler’s Inaugural Ball. They have also played at many company parties, including one at the Henry Ford estate in Dearborn, and as the back-up band for a Bob Newhart stage show in Illinois.

Singer-performer, Kathy Wagner joined the band as a young vocalist in town. She has become well-known for her work in musical theatre, concert stage, national tours with Rich Ridenour, and performances with the symphonies of Holland, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo. She has said she is indebted to Henry for his encouragement and the opportunities with River City Jazz and “loving every minute of it.” Kathy also teaches contemporary music at both Cornerstone University and Aquinas College.

In 2008, Henry turned over the leadership to David Wells. David Wells is a retired music teacher who performs, composes, arranges, and directs in various local music groups in the Grand Rapids area.