Stardust Orchestra

From time to time, we get questions  about the background of Stardust Orchestra members.  Although the band includes several members that have played professionally for years, many members are simply good musicians who share a love for music of the big band era.  We share below specific information on several of our members.

David Fleming - David is the current director and lead trumpet player in the Stardust Orchestra.  He started playing trumpet in the 4th grade and graduated with both a BS and MS in Music Education from the Crane School of Music,  State University College at Potsdam, New York.  After teaching high school music for nine years, David moved into the music business with a small company that rented instruments to school children.  Over the next 35 years he helped grow the business to a nationwide company.  David has been retired for 10 years and currently performs with the Savannah Wind Symphony, the Lowcountry Community Concert Band, the May River Brass Quintet, and the Sun City Band.  He assumed the Directorship of the Stardust Orchestra in September of 2014.  David is married to Marsha.  They have two children and two grandchildren.

Dave McMullen - Dave, who led the orchestra from 2012 until late 2014, is a graduate of the U.S. Navy's School of Music.  He played in military bands around the world before settling, as a civilian, in the Philadelphia and New Jersey areas to work as a ship designer/marine engineer designer on commercial and military ships.  He also played professionally with many classical, show, and big band groups before retiring to Hilton Head Island. Dave continues to be active in several local musical organizations, playing both saxophone and clarinet.

John Emerson - John was a former IRS agent who maintained a love for jazz piano and continues to play both with Stardust and other area bands, including his own trio, at various local venues.

Rick Hungerford -  Rick performs on trumpet and flugelhorn with Stardust, and spends part of the year in upstate New York playing with concert and jazz groups there.  A former real estate attorney, Rick brings a passion for the music and a strong performance ability to the Stardust Orchestra.  We are fortunate to have him.

Rick Eckstein - Rick has played clarinet and saxophone in concert bands and small groups since high school, where he participated in all-state bands and summer clinics at Baldwin Wallace College in hopes of becoming a music major.  Fate intervened, however, and   Rick went instead to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he played baritone saxophone in that institution's big band. After graduation, Rick underwent nuclear power training under Admiral Rickover and served on nuclear submarines and later in Atlanta as a commercial nuclear safety and management consultant.   While in Atlanta, he played in three different community and college concert bands, rekindling his lifelong love of music.   After settling in Bluffton, Rick found a musical home in the Stardust Orchestra playing baritone and tenor saxophone and clarinet. He also plays in the Lowcounty Community Concert and Jazz Bands and the Carolina Swing jazz ensemble.

David Hershey - Dave is a retired US Army musician who retired after 24 years of service as a Trumpeter and Music Production Specialist. He has held the position of soloist on national and international tours, Principal Player, Section Leader, Group Leader, and Music Support Division Chief during that time period. His assignments were in Kaiserslautern, Germany; Ground Forces Band in Atlanta, GA; and the US Military Academy Band at West Point. He has had numerous musical experiences and projects with many of our Nation's leading band leaders. Dave served as Chief Recording Engineer and Producer for the acclaimed West Point Bicentennial Commissioning Project. Dave Hershey is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and has been a member of the Lowcountry Community Concert Band for 2 years.  He currently serves as assistant director of that group is a retir

Larry Katz - Larry taught music in public schools, colleges and universities for 35 years. He holds a degree in Music and Music Education from the Carnegie Institute of Technology and a Masters Degree in Music Education from the University of Illinois. He has played with symphony orchestras and big bands for over 50 years. Currently, he is a member of the Beaufort Symphony Orchestra and also directs the Lowcountry Community Concert Band.

Larry Williams -  Larry plays lead trombone in the orchestra.  He retired to the lowcountry after a 40 year career as a professor of mathematics in Michigan.  Larry performed there as lead trombone in the college Wind Ensemble and as a member of a brass quintet at various venues throughout the area.  He now plays with the May River Brass Quintet, Carolina Swing, the Savannah Wind Symphony, and other groups in the Bluffton/Hilton Head area.  He and his wife share five children and 11 grandchildren.   

Guy Bettarelli - Guy started playing alto saxophone and clarinet when he was eight years old. He started playing in a Junior Symphony in New Haven, Connecticut when he was ten years old, played in his own band during his teen and college years, and later played in several other musical organizations over the years. He retired from AT&T after 32 years, during which time he managed different departments within the organization and made several corporate moves within the Northeastern and Southeastern United States.  Guy also plays saxophone in the Lowcountry Community Concert and and Lowcountry Jazz Band.  He is married with two daughters and four grandchildren. G

Bruce Thompson - Bruce was born and raised in Perry, NY, where he started playing trombone in the fifth grade.  He received his BMusEd and MMusEd from Ithaca College and completed additional graduate work at Nazareth College and the Eastman School of Music.  As a music educator, he spent the next 34 years teaching instrumental music in Western NY.  His performing groups consistently received ratings and evaluations of excellence at festivals and competitions throughout the Northeast.  He was awarded the Teacher of the Year Award for Teaching Excellence by the University of Rochester, and the Rochester Philharmonic Musicians’ Award for Outstanding Music Educator-Band.  He performed with the Perinton Concert Band and was their Associate Conductor for ten years.  In addition to the Stardust Orchestra, Bruce performs with the Lowcountry Community Concert Band, as well as the Krazy Firemen from Rochester, NY.  Bruce and his wife Shelly are  “snowbirds,” dividing their time between their homes in Bluffton and Webster, NY, and their Adirondack Mountains ‘camp.’ They have two daughters and two grandchildren.


Jim Rutgers - Jim plays bass trombone in the orchestra.  As a lifelong resident of New Jersey, Jim played trombone with the Nostalgia Big Band and tuba with the Raritan Valley Symphonic Band, the Somerset Symphony Orchestra, and the Somerset Brass Quintet.  Since retiring to Sun City, in addition to playing in the Stardust Orchestra, Jim also plays trombone with the Hilton Head Plantation Big Band and the Lowcountry Community Jazz band.   He performs on tuba with the Lowcountry Community Concert Band, the Sun City Band, the May River Brass Quintet, and the Savannah Winds Symphony.  Jim also sings in the choir at the Bluffton United Methodist Church.

Allyn Perdue - Following retirement as an air traffic controller with the Federal Aviation Administration, Allyn settled in Sun City where he became an active bassist with local musical groups.  Prior to his aviation career, Allyn was a professional musician who performed with opening acts for The Spinners and George Benson, among others.  His musical background includes piano, trombone, and music theory in high school and college.  His preferred instrument is bass guitar.  Allyn moved to the mountains of western North Carolina in 2008 but returned to Bluffton in 2013 and resumed playing bass.

Walter Brown - Walt was born in the Panama Canal Zone and has played trumpet since his high school and college days in concert and jazz bands.  More recently, Walt picked up the flugelhorn and now plays, in addition to the Stardust Orchestra, with the Lowcountry Community Concert and Jazz bands.

Steve Ryden -  Steve has been playing woodwind instruments (clarinet, saxophone, and flute) for over 55 years.  Steve studied with well known musicians in the New Jersey/Philadelphia area where he grew up and has played in a variety of bands and musical groups (including big bands, jazz combos, and show groups) since early high school.  An organizational development and management training expert by profession, Steve and his wife Louise relocated to Bluffton in 2008.

DK Bennett is a retired music  educator, arranger, and multi-instrument performer.  He ran a top-rated high school music program in the Ann Arbor Michigan area before retiring to South Carolina several years ago.  

David Skinner is a retired insurance executive who, among his many talents, speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese!  His musical background includes performing in several local jazz and swing ensembles besides the Stardust Orchestra.

Penney Lynn Smith - Penney is the featured female vocalist with the orchestra.  Originally from Ohio, Penney has lived in the lowcountry for 25 years, where she has taught strings in to local students.  Her vocal performance credits include several musicals with the Savannah Theater Company, and numerous radio voiceover and television commercial appearances.  As well as serving as the female vocalist for the Stardust Orchestra, Penney is also a founding member of the Sweetgrass Angels, a three woman group with a varied repertoire that includes both country and popular music and has enjoyed a strong following among local audiences over the past couple years.  Penney is also the vocalist for The Swingtime Orchestra, and sings with local professional jazz pianist Norm Gagne at the Low Country Produce Café in Beaufort on Friday nights. Penney recently served as Music Director for the sold-out production of GREASE as UCSB.  She looks forward to focusing the joy of retired life on her musical passions. Penney and her husband Lain, reside in beautiful Port Royal with their adorable Havanese puppy, Divot.

Michael Schwartzkopf - Mike is a male vocalist with the orchestra.  Mike comes from a strong background as a Professor of Choral Music at Indiana University.  He has conducted nationally recognized choral groups and recorded two albums with the Singing Hoosiers and the Cincinnati Pops orchestra under the baton of the late Erich Kunzel.  As a singer, Mike's background includes classical, pops, opera, and musical theater.  He served during the Vietnam era as a principal soloist with the United States Army Chorus and Army Blues Jazz Band, and gave several solo performances at the White House.  Mike continues to be active as a choral judge, lecturer, clinician, and festival conductor in state, regional, and all-state choirs both nationally and internationally.


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