The United States Coast Guard Band, one of America’s premier military concert bands, will perform on Sunday, September 29, as part of the Guilford Performing Arts Festival. The free show, to be held at the Guilford High School (GHS) Performing Arts Center, will include a side-by-side performance with the high school band’s Wind Ensemble.
The show is part of a collaboration between the festival and Guilford Public Schools in which two festival performances will be held at the Performing Arts Center and festival artists will teach workshops for high-school students. The teaching roster and program will be announced in mid-September.
The 2019 Guilford Performing Arts Festival, scheduled for September 26-29, will present 70 free shows and workshops—in music, theater, dance, storytelling, poetry, circus acts, music making, improvisational theater, shows for kids and more—in a dozen Guilford venues.
The 55-member Coast Guard Band, based at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, was founded in 1925. It was the first American military band to perform in the Soviet Union and has played in Canada, England, Japan and Taiwan. A mainstay of high-level government ceremonies, it has performed at the inauguration of every U.S. president since Herbert Hoover. The band plays a broad spectrum of music, from wind ensemble classics to swinging jazz.
Among the pieces to be played at the Guilford Performing Arts Festival will be “Sea Songs” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Bigelow and Swearingen’s “Our Director” march. Both will be performed side by side with the GHS Wind Ensemble; “Sea Songs” will be conducted by Chief Warrant Officer Jeffrey Spenner, the Coast Guard Band’s assistant director, and “Our Director” will be conducted by Mark Gahm, GHS music teacher and band director.
The 55-person GHS Wind Ensemble, directed by Gahm, comprises Guilford High School’s top woodwind, brass and percussion students, and the instrumentation is virtually identical to that of the Coast Guard Band.
Students were sent home with the music for “Sea Songs” over the summer and will start work on the piece as soon as school reopens at the end of August. Spenner will work with the Wind Ensemble several times in advance to prepare them for the concert; he also will give a clinic on other musical pieces.
“This is a unique opportunity for the students,” Gahm says. “When learning new music, I often play recordings of the music we’re working on, and I spend a lot of time looking for the best quality recordings. I often find myself selecting performances of the Coast Guard Band, so for my students to sit down next to these extraordinary musicians—even for just one song—is a huge thrill. I don’t know any other schools that have had such an up-close and personal experience with the Coast Guard Band.”
Education is part of the Coast Guard Band’s mission, and making connections with young players benefits the band and its members, according to Spenner. “It’s not every day that a high school band member gets to perform next to a world-class professional musician,” he says. “The educational and inspirational benefits truly go both ways—the students will benefit from experiencing high-level music making next to some of our nation’s finest musicians, and I’m sure our band members will be invigorated by the energy of our next generation.”
Tickets to the Coast Guard Band’s concert will be available by online registration. Check this website after Labor Day weekend for a link to the registration site.
Here’s Ready for the Call, composed by the Coast Guard Band’s Sean Nelson: