A variety of student orchestra groups were popular at Geneva during the 1920s as part of the musical craze of the decade. The first official Geneva Orchestra did not exist until 1929, but other informal orchestras played on and off throughout the 20s. Despite what the word “orchestra” might bring to mind today, in this context it was essentially a swing band, as they played favorite tunes from the era, such as “Button Up Your Overcoat” as mentioned in the 1929 Genevan Yearbook, which was a popular swing-style song. Click here to hear this song, sung by 20s singer Ruth Etting. Click here to see the 1929 Geneva Orchestra.
One such orchestral band went on a domestic tour with the Men’s Glee Club and quartette in 1925. The combination of the vocal groups and the orchestral band were known as “the Genevans,” though the college choir of the same name in existence today did not officially come into existence until 1938.
In addition, a group known as the Geneva Jazzers was highlighted in the 1920 edition of the Genevan yearbook, and was comprised of four members, playing the saxophone, the cornet, the violin and the piano. This group seems to have been considerably talented, as some of the members were accomplished musicians before involvement in the group. The Geneva Jazzers is also significant for the fact that, unlike the other orchestral groups mentioned in the Genevan Yearbook, it included women among its members.
The jazz scene of the 1920s, then, was very much a part of the culture and atmosphere on Geneva College’s campus. An interest in jazz music was a popular trend at Geneva as a pastime or hobby for the student body in the same way as it would have been at other colleges. Geneva, in this aspect, seems to have been typical of the era.