WHEATON – The first time Elizabeth Kapitaniuk played at the Wheaton North Swing Dance, it was a big deal.
As a band member at Monroe Middle School, she was invited to perform at the dance. Everything felt so much bigger and better. And the eighth-grader thought it was cool to be around all the older students, especially the seniors who sounded so professional.
Four years later, Kapitaniuk is one of those seniors.
"The Swing Dance is such a fun dance," said Kapitaniuk, a member of the Wheaton North jazz ensemble. "It's been one of my favorite parts of high school in general."
Kapitaniuk has played at the Swing Dance every year since first performing as an eighth-grader. Saturday's Swing Dance marked the eighth year that Wheaton North has held the dance, which brings together students, parents and community members in an effort to raise money for the school's band program.
Band director Jon Noworyta started the Swing Dance during his second year at Wheaton North as a way to fundraise a little differently. Instead of having students sell items to raise money, the Swing Dance gives them an opportunity to show off what they've learned while still supporting the band program.
The Swing Dance differs from other school dances as well because it features live bands instead of a disc jockey, and parents and community members are invited to attend.
"It's kind of cool – kids are there with their parents," Noworyta said. "It's not weird. It's all very fun. It's a throwback."
Wheaton North's jazz band and jazz ensemble performed Saturday as did bands from Monroe and Franklin middle schools. Swing dance lessons were offered by Sterba's DanceSport of Naperville before the dance started.
The jazz ensemble, which is the more experienced of the two high school jazz groups, played three sets during the dance. Its first and third sets included traditional swing songs while its middle set focused on disco and rock to mix things up, Noworyta said.
The jazz band played two sets at the Swing Dance while each middle school band played one.
"It's fun to perform for a live audience," said Nathaniel Wright, senior and jazz ensemble member.
Wright has performed at the Swing Dance since he was in seventh grade at Franklin Middle School. He said his favorite song to play each year is "Proud Mary," which he has performed three times now with his fellow jazz ensemble members.
"That's always amazing," he said.
The Band Parent Committee helps to organize the Swing Dance each year. Judi Gonzales, the parent coordinator for the event, has been involved with the Swing Dance for five years, although she hasn't had a child in the jazz band or ensemble for three years.
"I just kept wanting to do this," Gonzales said. "It's a really fun event."
Just as Gonzales has continued to want to be a part of the Swing Dance, so has Kapitaniuk.
Each year, the Swing Dance serves as the end to the jazz season, Kapitaniuk said. But this year, it served as a little more as the high school senior prepares to graduate from Wheaton North and her high school band career comes to a close.
"It's kind of what I've done all through high school," she said. "It's the closing out of a lot of good things, a lot of good memories."