VERO BEACH – In a concert packed with patriotic anthems and classic songs by American composers, the Vero Beach High School symphonic and jazz bands will perform one last show this evening, following two sold out performances over the weekend.
The 18th annual Red, White and Blue Concert is a two-and-a-half hour program that had student musicians leading the community in saluting the nation and its veterans – many of them in the audience. “Of all the performances we do at the high school, it probably draws the biggest crowd,” said Page Howell, associate band director of the school.
Along with veterans, parents and families also contributed to the packed houses Saturday and Sunday in the 1,000-seat Performing Arts Center, as about 160 members of the symphonic band filled the stage, along with a 12-member flag corps.
The annual concert was the notion of a local World War II veteran, Richard Cornell. It was Cornell who helped arrange for the Veterans Council of Indian River County to benefit from a portion of the ticket sales.
The funds help supplement the cost of transporting veterans to the VA Hospital in West Palm Beach for medical care.
“You will know more about your country when you leave here today than when you arrived,” Cornell told the audience during one of the performances.
Audience members were treated to familiar tunes that seemed particularly poignant as still more Americans head into harm’s way abroad. And there were enough unfamiliar pieces to edify the audience with an expanded repertoire of American music.
The concert began nearly two decades ago to raise money for a band trip to Washington, D.C.
Long a source of community pride for its numerous awards, the band had been invited to perform at the Pentagon. The concert that year, presented in the school gymnasium, was the same that would be performed in the nation’s capital.
After seeing that first concert, Cornell approached band director James Sammons with the idea of an annual event. He has since become the executive producer of the concert, doing much of the public relations work with support from the Veterans Council.
Conducted by Sammons and Howell, with guest appearances from band directors from other schools, the arrangements were often emotionally charged.
“Give Us This Day” by David Maslanka, a contemporary composer, is a soulful and stirring two-movement symphony. Written for winds, percussion and piano, it is “the most emotionally connected piece I’ve ever worked with,” said Sammons by way of introduction.
Sammons went on to explain that a patriot, by definition, is one who serves his country. “But,” he said, “you can serve the country by taking care of your families and each other.”
The symphonic band comprises select musicians from the marching band and other musical performing groups from the high school’s strong music program. It includes two symphonic bands, three jazz bands, three percussion ensembles, various chamber ensembles, as well as orchestral winds and percussion.
The 18-member jazz band was nothing less than phenomenal in its tribute to Duke Ellington. The segment kicked off with a rousing rendition of “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” written by Ellington and Irving Miles.
Want to go?
Event: 18th Annual Red, White & Blue Concert, “American Patriotic Sketches”
Date: Monday, March 28 at 7 p.m.
Location: Vero Beach High School Performing Arts Center.
General Admission Seating: $12 per person; tickets for Veterans are $6 each.
Call (772) 564-5537 for tickets. The Box Office is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.