The Kennedy Center

Tom Cunningham Orchestra


In the words of Frankie Manning of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, “[the Tom] Cunningham [Orchestra] plays the best Basie since Basie!” Not only that, he plays the best Goodman since Goodman, the best Ellington since Ellington, the best Miller since Miller…the best swing music since the swing era. This is their 41st year of swingin’ DC! During that time, they’ve collected the finest big band library – not modern, glib arrangements, but the original, hard swingin’ charts that made swing music ageless – and that’s what makes the Tom Cunningham Orchestra the best for dancing, the best for listening, and the best!
Adding to the Orchestra’s luster are the renowned singers. Robin (Mrs. Tom) Cunningham shares her husband’s passion for the Swing Era, and her love for it shines through in her swingin’ style and interpretations. Robin sang with Artie Shaw Orchestra, under the direction of the late Dick Johnson, whenever they were in town. She’s also sung the Anthem at sporting events for the Redskins and Nationals. Robin is joined by Kathy Farmer and Betsy Kipperman to form the YazooZazz Trio whose phenomenally rich harmonies cover the “Sisters” trio gamut from the Boswell Sisters, Dandridge Sisters through the Andrews Sisters and more.
This band’s resume is impressive: Tom and Robin have traveled as far as Australia to perform and to teach swing. The band has performed at the Kennedy Center on multiple occasions, the Smithsonian, The Barns of Wolf Trap, Blues Alley (all to standing ovations), presidential and gubernatorial inaugurals, the Cherry Blossom and other major Balls; they’ve been to a “radio orchestra” and made several TV appearances, including BET’s Jazz Central and Maryland Public Television’s “Big Band Battle,” where the viewers voted them a 2-to-1 winner. They are holders of the Washington Area Musicians’ Association’s “Wammie” Award as the region’s outstanding big band/swing group. Their vinyl album, “Yes Indeed!,” received national airplay and glowing reviews. Their second release, “All The Cats Join In,” ditto, and sold out a second printing. A third release, “One O’clock Boogie, Two O’clock Jump,” which also received rave reviews, is still being heard around the world on XM-Sirius. Their fourth release, “Swingin’ and Singin’,” is their best offering yet!

Watch Past Performances

Video 11/23/2017: Thanksgiving Day Swing Dance Party: Gottaswing and Tom Cunningham Orchestra

Dance off your holiday dinner at a Thanksgiving Day Swing Dance Party, as the Millennium Stage and Gottaswing present a festive program. This event, which includes dance lessons and live music from the Tom Cunningham Orchestra, will run until 9 p.m.

Video 11/28/2013: Thanksgiving Day Swing Dance Party

This festive program features dancing and music by the Tom Cunningham Orchestra with special guest Jean Veloz. Vintage and military dress encouraged—but not required. Free swing dance lessons begin at 6 p.m., followed by a free, evening-long dance party from 7 to 9 p.m.