I was deeply saddened when I found out last week that due to the defeat of the school budget the Community Summer Concert Band would not be playing its traditional four Fridays in July at the Sousa Memorial
Band Shell. This would have been my fifth summer participating with the group and when speaking with some of the other members I found out that this still classified me as a relative newcomer. Everyone in the group seems to have a story about their experience. One gentleman has been playing with the summer band since the Band Shell was built in 1967. Another member spoke of a year when he played alongside his two children. Some of the younger members of the band are in high school and some college students look forward to coming back to Port Washington for the summer in order to play with the band. Many of the members need to change work schedules and/or decline invitations to other events in order to participate during the five weeks in which we practice 10 evenings and perform four concerts.
I was so affected by this disregard of a longtime Port Washington tradition when dropping the program that I decided to do some research about the history of the summer band. I feel it is important to share my findings with the town, a town rich with many traditions, one of which was the Community Summer Concert Band.
The band, itself, has existed since 1931 and members used to play outside the Main Street School (now the Landmark building). Gay Pearsall, longtime resident, started raising funds for the building of the Sousa Band Shell by rallying Port Washington residents as well as others to support her endeavors (on a side note Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and William Shea are three famous people listed as contributors to the Band Shell). It was originally thought that when the Band Shell was completed in 1967 that its sole purpose was for the Community Summer Concert Band to play during the month of July. At the time there were not even plans for outside groups to give concerts at that location!
The Community Summer Concert Band has always played a variety of music from classical to show tunes. Anyone who has played in the summer band or been to one of the concerts would agree that listening to the Community Summer Concert Band is an enjoyable way to spend a July evening. We play because of our love of music and our need to share this love with our town. Hopefully, you have had the opportunity in the past to listen to the group because although the Band Shell has been booked this summer for Friday nights in July with other fine groups, you will not be listening to the Community Summer Band, a concert band that was created for your own town.
Rachel S. Fox
Flutist and 18-year resident