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Summer Hours: Jim Mauck practices what he preaches

Jim Mauck plays trombone in a tribute band called The Chicago Authority. He started playing the instrument at age nine.


Published July 22, 2022

Editor's note: Summer Hours is a photo series focusing on UB staff members who use the longer days to pursue interesting hobbies, causes and other endeavors outside of their day jobs.

For Jim Mauck, UB’s director of athletic bands, music is not just about playing a note.

“It’s a feeling, and when it’s harmonized together it has some serious power behind it,” Mauck says. “It’s a feeling that takes all of us to put together, so when the band’s really rocking and going, you’re not thinking; you’re feeling.”

Band members go through a sound check in the late afternoon as they prepare to perform at Tonawanda's Gateway Harbor for the Wednesday Night Canal Concert Series. Barry Arbogast (left) plays the saxophone.

Sheet music is digital. The crowd continues to gather as The Chicago Authority prepares to take the stage.

Mauck first picked up a trombone at that age of nine. “I wanted to say trumpet, but I said trombone, and then from there, that was it.”

For the past nine years he has played with The Chicago Authority, a popular, Buffalo-based tribute band. UBNow caught up with the band in early July, at a performance at the Gateway Wednesday Canal Concert Series at Tonawanda’s Gateway Harbor — with an estimated 5,000-plus fans in attendance. The band is scheduled for nine shows this summer, mostly in Western New York, but some as far away as Pennsylvania.

The band has nine musicians — three in the horn section. Band co-founder and guitarist Rick Johnston says Mauck is critical to the success of the group.

“[He brings] a demanding standard of the music, making sure that the music is performed properly, making sure that we’re all phrasing at the same time, making sure that we’re starting and stopping breathing together,” Johnston explains.

Johnston says the group settled on performing the music of Chicago for a variety of reasons: It’s a band they grew up listening to and they admire the original musicians’ talent.

“There’s a lot going on under the hood when you start listening to individual parts of how they’re assembled and how very, very disciplined those guys really were back then,” Johnston says. “We wanted to pay respect to that and it’s a rock band with horns.”

The full band gathers for a moment of prayer before the show. They call it "the circle."

More than 5,000 people were estimated to have attended this show. Along with the immediate stage area, people set up in the shade across the Erie Canal, and listened from boats as well.

Before the show, Mauck wanders a bit behind stage. Perhaps working through some jitters, but also warming up his mouth and face muscles for the nearly two-hour set. He enjoys joking with his bandmates and they all gather for a prayer before taking the stage.

“These are wonderful musicians, great men,” Mauck says. “We just have a great time together, making great music. That’s the best thing about it.”

On the grass in front of the stage, John Lombardi sets up his lounge chair about 30 feet from the stage. Lombardi says he was one of the band’s first promoters, booking them at the Palace Theater in Lockport, and he still comes to two or three of their shows a year.

“They are some of the best musicians in Western New York,” Lombardi says. “They are the best Chicago tribute band in the world”

Mauck practices every day for at least an hour — sometimes longer if he wants to work on new material or try different musical styles. He uses a mute system so he can play full out and not intrude on his neighbors. Although the practice and performing is demanding, he doesn’t hesitate, saying music is meant to be shared and he can see the enjoyment in the audience.

“Music will take them back. It’ll take them back to their childhood,” Mauck says. “It’ll take them back to maybe a teenager or take them back to great times with friends and family.”

A view from behind stage shows Mauck (center) enjoying the energy from the crowd. He likes performing, saying music is meant to be shared.

Standing in the front row, moving to the beat and singing along, is Pam Zeep, a North Buffalo resident. “I really feel the music. It’s my Zen,” she says.

And the crowd agrees. People have packed the lawn and cobblestone areas of the Gateway Harbor. They dance and sing along to many of the songs. Some are wearing The Chicago Authority gear. Across the Erie Canal, more people have set up chairs, and boats dock along the adjacent waterway.

Mauck says his favorite Chicago song to both play and hear is “Just you and Me.” It seems fitting, as the lyrics echo Mauck’s passion for music and the band.

“I don’t think there’s an end to this,” he says. “We have so much fun doing it.”

Jim Mauck has working at UB for 20 years and directs The Thunder of the East Marching Band and the Pep Band. The band’s website has details on its remaining summer 2022 shows.  

Editor’s note: UBNow is looking for faculty and staff members who pursue interesting hobbies, causes and other endeavors outside of their day jobs. Contact University Communications photographer Meredith Forrest Kulwicki.