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What Would Sousa Think?

What John Phllip Sousa might think of the legacy he left behind in Port.

Suppose one-time Sands Point resident John Philip Sousa could time-travel into present-day Port Washington on a Friday night in July. While we're at it, let's say he caught a concert at the band shell that carries his namesake. Would he be pleased? Mark Brenner seems to thinks so.

Arguably, Brenner is the best person to ask in Port. For nearly a decade, he's directed Port Washington High School Summer Community Band, which performs at the John Philip Sousa Memorial Band Shell at Manhasset Bay every Friday night in July.

"Our performers are an eclectic mix of students, graduates, music educators and those with a lifelong love of playing music," said Brenner, who also teaches band and AP Music Theory at Paul D. Schreiber High School. "Sousa would be very pleased that a group of citizens volunteer their time to build a lovely cultural gem in the community." 

Port Washington High School Summer Community Band launches its 2010 season Friday, July 2, at 8:15 p.m. The program is underwritten by the school district, which also provides the facility for rehearsals, the percussion equipment and music. 

"For a very modest budget, we get to make really great music," Brenner pointed out, adding that the program benefits musicians and audiences alike.

The theme for the July 2 concert is  "America!" and will include American pop music through the years. On July 9, the theme will be pops, highlighting music by Leroy Anderson, the famed conductor of the Boston Pops. The evening will also feature the music of the Port Washington Clarinet Choir, led by Port resident Dr. Levana Cohen. Recent Schreiber High School graduate Jonny Schechner will serve as the concert's narrator. On July 16, the band will present "The British are Coming," covering British folk music and pop music from the British invasion of the 1960s. And the final concert on July 23 will be a potpourri of music that Brenner said offers "something for everyone." 

That includes a performance by the cast of this year's Port Summer Show, which will offer a preview from "Thoroughly Modern Millie," a production that will run August 5 through August 8 at Schreiber High School, said Port resident Elisabeth Roberts, co-president of the Port Summer Show. Roberts said she's a fan of band shell concerts. "It's the Hollywood Bowl of Port Washington," Roberts said, adding that she loves attending concerts in a setting that offers "the outdoors, fresh air, and old-time feel." 

Clarinet player Chrystal DeKams, a member of the band who also manages Wright Music in Port Washington, said, "There are so many people in the community that support the program. It's fun to be involved."

Sousa would be very proud of Port's band shell series, Brenner said. "He would love this program," Brenner noted. "It follows the format that Sousa pioneered in his career. He would get a real charge to see students and adults making music together."

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