2017-12-01 / Spotlight News

All ages, backgrounds merge in Bonita Springs Concert Band

By D.K. Christi

Mike Davis, music director at Walt Disney World, guest conducts the Bonita Springs Concert Band at Riverside Park. Mike Davis, music director at Walt Disney World, guest conducts the Bonita Springs Concert Band at Riverside Park. As many as a hundred members of the Bonita Springs Concert Band rehearse at Estero High School once a week for the pure joy of expressing their talent and performing once a month in concert at Riverside Park.

For the price of a chair and maybe a sun umbrella that guests bring along, the otherwise free concerts have something for everyone. From 2,000 to 4,000 people fill the park and are invited to leave donations that help pay for occasional expenses and contribute to the scholarship fund.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything,” said Plato. The Bonita Springs Concert Band members come from Fort Myers, Estero, Bonita Springs and Naples and every walk of life and profession. They span the age spectrum from teenagers to those in their 80s.

“Many members were directors themselves at high schools, colleges and in their communities or played with bands and orchestras,” said Gary Smith, conductor for the past four years and Associate Director of Bands, University of Illinois Emeritus. Many may have put down their instruments years ago and are picking them up again in retirement. “What is exciting for me is the quality of our musicians,” said Smith.

The scholarship program enables outstanding young performers from local high schools and Florida Gulf Coast University to receive financial aid to play with these experienced musicians and add to their repertoires of musical performances.

Smith and Associate Conductor Gordon Hardy have led their members to a first: selection as one of 10 concert bands that performed in Fort Lauderdale at the National Convention of the Association of Concert Bands in 2017. Competition required sending in performance recordings.

Each year, the Bonita Springs Concert Band records a CD for donors who are members of Friends of the Band. Community organizations that support the band and the scholarship program are listed in the program at each performance, since they make it possible to carry on the free concert tradition for the community.

Notable about the performances is the wide range of professional headliners that the conductors highlight for each concert, including Harry Waters on trombone, members of the Boston Brass, vocalists Lisa Batchelder, Carol Ann Sanita and Gerritt Vandermeer, horn soloist Chris Castellanos, tuba player Tom Kracmer and other exciting soloists with Broadway and national performance credits entertain right here in Riverside Park.

Every concert includes 12 music selections. Songs from Broadway, marches, movie themes, rock, jazz and popular tastes entertain families on many beautiful Sundays in the park. “It’s a great way to relax and just enjoy music,” said Smith. One concert is held at Estero High School and a $10 donation is requested. Two concerts, one at Riverside Park and one at Cambier Park, are joint performances with the Naples Concert Band.

For more information and a complete schedule, see bonitaspringsconcertband.com or call 239-405-3320.

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