Twenty years ago a small group of New Rochelle High School band graduates, who loved the special sound of the concert band and missed playing in one, upon realizing that there were no local community bands, decided to form a new group which they named "The Hudson Valley Wind Symphony." From its humble beginning of about 30 members the organization has grown to 65 wind and percussion players, all volunteers, and has performed at least three concerts each year since then, including benefit performances for such local charities as The Food Bank
of Westchester, the Rotary Club of Briarcliff Manor, Student Assistance Services (based in Tarrytown), the Irvington Ambulance Corps, Phelps Hospice and many other Westchester-based organizations.
Over the years a number of noted local celebrities have served as narrators, including Sandra Galef, Storm Field, Bob Sherman (who described the group as "a first-rate organization" in the New York Times), and most recently, Tarrytown native Forrest Hamilton.
Like many avocational groups, WSW has its share of doctors, lawyers, techies and CPA’s. There are also a number of school music directors and private music teachers. The common thread is the love of the concert band experience, where the woodwinds and the brass do all of the work strings would do in an orchestra, and still have solo moments to shine. Since many people have never heard a serious concert band, one of the aims of the group is to show music lovers what they are missing: "A whole ocean of music," said Robert LaPorta, one of the founders of the band.
Now renamed "Westchester Symphonic Winds" to better reflect that its members come from all over Westchester (as well as Putnam, Connecticut, New Jersey and NYC), the group is celebrating its 20 years with a gala anniversary concert and reception on Saturday, May 10 at 8:00 p.m. at the Tarrytown Music Hall. The program will be led by Curt Ebersole, an award-winning conductor and former principal clarinetist with this band. His program includes works
spanning the rich history of the wind symphony, including Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, Mark Camphouse’s Whatsoever Things…, and Alfred Reed’s Armenian Dances Part 1. Lois Hicks-Wozniak, formerly of the West Point Military Band, will also be featured as saxophone soloist with the band performing Variations on the Carnival of Venice.
In all these years the band never had a "home base," although for many years it was "Ensemble in Residence" at Concordia College, which unfortunately did not have a performing venue large enough for the group. When the opportunity arose to make the Tarrytown Music Hall a permanent home both for rehearsals and concerts they jumped at it. With its magnificent acoustics, newly expanded stage, storage and parking space, and infectious enthusiasm of Karina Ringeisen and Bjorn Olsson, managers of the theater, it is a perfect fit. As Tarrytown has experienced a revitalization, the band, too, hopes to grow and flourish here as an ensemble in residence at the Music Hall, and for Tarrytown and the neighboring communities as well.
Tickets are $13 for seniors and students; $18 for adults; free for children under 10; and may be obtained through the Music Hall, 877-840-0457 or online at www.tarrytownmusichall.org.
While the band, a 501C3 Charitable Organization, has been blessed with a grant from the Westchester Arts Council, contributions are always needed and may be sent to Westchester Symphonic Winds, Box 485, 333 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, New York.