What better way to celebrate summer’s unofficial Memorial Day weekend kickoff than to head for Main Beach to absorb the rays and rousing tunes performed by the Laguna Concert Band on Monday, May 28, beginning at 12:30 p.m.
For those with other plans that day, there’s a chance to catch up with the band’s Swing Set on June 16 when they again play at noon on Main Beach. Their performance is part of Laguna’s Fête de la Musique, where musicians donate their time for free concerts throughout downtown as part of a World Music Day.
The concert band’s summer schedule includes appearances at the Sawdust Festival, the Festival of Arts and in Huntington Beach. Its most popular Swing Set offshoot most recently entertained at the 2012 Art Star Awards ceremony.
Lucinda Prewitt, president of Laguna Beach Live, praised the band for offering an opportunity for musicians of various genres to perform and expose the community to great music. “They make me wish I were a musician myself,” she said.
Comprised of 65 unpaid amateur and former professional musicians, the band now has aspirations to travel nationally and internationally, according to its president, Matt Wood, 50, a trumpeter, whose love for Dixieland music leads another band offshoot, The Third Street Strutters.
Recently, the group produced a 30-minute CD of its best work, including excerpts from this year’s Laguna Playhouse concert “America the Tubaful,” to support its application to the national Association of Concert Bands. “We should know whether we made it in July,” said Wood, who helps run the local gallery, Len Wood’s Indian Territory. “The tape shows the level of our performance today, how it keeps changing and evolving,” he said.
If accepted, Wood envisions the band hitting the road, playing at the group’s national convention. “They get submissions from all over the country but only four or five bands get picked to be featured, but we have a shot at making the cut,” he said, noting that not all players will comprise the convention band.
The band’s audition recording captured its overall repertoire skill, but omitted the crowd-pleasing memorable riff from the “Deliverance” film score delivered by visiting Chicago Symphony tubist Gene Pokorny and colleague Charlie Warren. The tubists belong to a roster of the band’s guest artists that have included Pacific Symphony flutist Cynthia Ellis, trumpeter Tony Ellis, and woodwind player Gary Gould among others.
While the median age of band members hovers around 50, the group is beginning to attract younger ones and its size has outstripped its original rehearsal space, the Laguna Beach High School band room. “We have so many new players wanting to join, two or three a week, we have to explore new options, but that’s a good problem to have,” he said.
At age 14, the Concert Band’s brood includes the Brass Ensemble, the Bolling League, (small jazz group), the Third Street (dixieland) Strutters, Laguna Flutes, the Swing Set and Laguna Swing Society. They collectively perform 20 concerts a year.
“We put together concerts that are shows rather than formal, staid concerts and use the versatility of our band as a calling card,” said Wood.