The musicians of the Gulf Coast Big Band mourn the loss of our gifted director of ten years, Dan Miller.
Dan passed away on Friday, August 19, and left so many grieving friends and admirers in Naples, Collier County and beyond. Dan was a mentor to young people, an amazement to audiences, and an icon among musicians. To our members of the Gulf Coast Big Band, Dan was our leader, our teacher, our taskmaster and our longtime friend. Over time, he gave us our identity as a purely jazz group. He was untiring in his efforts, too, that helped our band raise over $80,000 for the high school musicians of Collier County, a number of whom have played with our band in Cambier Park and will continue to do so.
Gulf Coast Band President Dick Miller described Dan as “an incredible teacher for the individual jazz student and the jazz ensemble, a musical encyclopedia whose knowledge of the jazz world was almost infinite, but most of all a great person who cared about everyone.”
We were all stunned and sad that Dan is gone so suddenly. We will remember his astonishing artistry forever, and play our instruments trying to channel his musical wisdom. But most of all, we will never forget the size of his heart.
JAZZ BASSIST JR ERB IS BAND’S NEW DIRECTOR
JR Erb, an experienced leader who served 29 years as a band player, conductor and manager with the US Air Force, has been welcomed as the new conductor and music director of the Gulf Coast Big Band.
A jazz bassist, JR moved to Naples in 2022, after his retirement as a USAF Chief Master Sergeant. He had been scheduled to play with the Band this season under the direction of our late director Dan Miller, but now will step in for Dan, who was his former classmate at University of North Texas. JR earned a degree in jazz studies there.
As a musician in the Air Force, JR served at installations around the country, including Boston, Honolulu, Dayton, Colorado Springs and Hampton (Virginia).He was the non-commissioned Officer of the Concert Band at Langley Air Force Base and the manager for the Band of Flight at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In 2013, JR led the 10-piece horn band, Full Spectrum, which deployed to the Middle East as the premiere and only music unit for Air Force Central Command. The band performed in eight countries to raise the morale of coalition forces and assisted the US Department of State, fostering support from allied nations in the region. Early in his music career, JR played at Disney World, and on Disney cruise ships. A native of Pittsburgh PA, JR is married with four children and two dogs.
“I’m truly honored to get the opportunity to work with the Gulf Coast Big Band – everyone has been so supportive and welcoming that I can’t wait to get started,” said JR. “Losing Dan is a huge blow, not just to this group, but to the SW Florida music scene and beyond. My hope is to honor his legacy by playing the music he loved: Jazz!
Welcome to the website of the Gulf Coast Big Band. The Band performs big band and jazz concerts in Cambier Park, Naples, Florida. Concerts are on selected Sunday afternoons at 2:00 p.m. from November through April. The concerts are free with the “passing of the hat” at intermission to support the scholarship program. We look forward to sharing some swinging music with you.