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Lee County Community Band opens new season Nov. 12

By Staff | Nov 9, 2017

Since 1885, the Lee County Community Band has entertained Southwest Florida residents with high-spirited music. And the band’s 2017/2018-concert season is sure to add another feather to its historical cap.

Richard Bradstreet leads the 60-piece adult band. As conductor, Bradstreet is fully aware of the Lee County Community Band’s 132-year legacy.

“We are into continuing the tradition of playing good band music, music that is enjoyable to hear for our audiences as well as enjoyable to play for the musicians in the band. We try to perform a wide variety of music, something for everyone. We always hope each year that the band will be the best band yet,” Bradstreet said.

The 2017/2018-concert season starts Sunday, Nov. 12, at Cape Coral High School.

“We are part of the adult education program in Lee County, which explains why we can have our concerts in a school. We are very appreciative of the administrators at Cape Coral High School for opening their auditorium to us for our concerts. We don’t have to worry about inclement weather, which is particularly good for the audience members who come to the concerts from assisted living facilities,” Bradstreet said.

Additional concert dates include: Dec. 10, Jan. 21, Feb. 11, March 11, and April 8. All six concerts take place on the second Sunday of the month except for the January concert, which takes place on the third Sunday.

All concerts are free and begin at 3 p.m. Donations are welcome.

The programs typically include a mix of energetic marches, Broadway hits, old favorites, patriotic songs, and seasonal pieces.

Emcee and vocalist Norman Jones studied opera early on, and, as a kid, played the accordion and the trumpet. Now, his baritone voice leads the sing-alongs as well as entertains the crowd in between songs.

“The band is part of my life. I became emcee in 1980, when a friend asked if I’d take up the baton. I looked over the program, and found that the music was something filled with history. My parents used to listen to programs on the radio exactly like this, a little bit of Broadway, a little calypso,” Jones said.

“The friend liked the script I put together,” Jones said. “And so it began: my role as emcee. I had a thoroughly engaging time during that first show and every show continues to be wonderful, even after 37 years.”

“An emcee and vocalist has to keep things moving one way or another. The audience likes to know the name of the tune or that it was written by John Phillip Sousa, but I try to add a little history in there, too,” Jones said.

Jones is quite fond of this particular historical tidbit regarding his beloved band: “In 1885, the year before Fort Myers became a city, a young man decided that the town needed a town band. So, he convinced the 340 residents to buy 14 instruments. One of the patrons offered the fledgling band her living room to use for rehearsal. The noise, however, was more than her neighbors and she could bear. The band was then invited to practice out on a very long pier in the middle of the Caloosahatchee.”

“That must have been the spot,” Jones said. “Because the band was soon asked to play at Seminole Lodge for Mina and Thomas Edison. With Mina ‘Finding the music quite ethereal.’ “

Band members come from all over Lee, Collier, and Charlotte Counties. The band welcomes new members every year.

“While there is a lot of camaraderie in the band, there’s also a certain bit of competition among the players. Each year I try to improve my skills, knowing that there are other members who are better players than I am. Their ability serves as an incentive for me to improve my own skills,” clarinetist Susan Rayman said.

The band is made up of musicians from all walks of life. Some are career musicians while others are enthusiastic amateurs. Some are retired while others are still working. Jones has been in entertainment his entire life, and is an active retiree, who, for many years, was the sales manager for WINK TV, and, later on, managed the Lee Civic Center. Rayman works for the Lee County Elections Office.

“The band all has a love of music. They’re all volunteers but are very serious about music. It’s a labor of love,” Jones said.

Bradstreet, a former high school music teacher, started playing in the band in 1979.

“Over the years I played the baritone horn, French horn, trumpet, and several different percussion instruments before accepting the conductor’s job in 2003,” Bradstreet said.

Like Bradstreet and Jones, many of the musicians have been with the band for decades.

“We had one member who played for 53 years in the LCCB. We never knew for sure how old he was because we celebrated his 90th birthday three years in a row,” Bradstreet said.

The band’s loyal followers return year after year to hear songs from bygone years. The concert programs are sure to include hits from Broadway musicals, such as The Music Man, along with crowd favorites, like marches by John Philip Souza.

These are the tunes that continue to resonate with concert attendees. The enthusiastic audiences are nostalgic for music they enjoyed when they were children and young adults.

“We have a smashing audience, concert after concert. I’m made some serious good friends in the audience. They can’t turn on the radio and hear a march anymore. The Roaring ’20s are as popular as ever,” Jones said.

“We have a large and faithful following,” Rayman said. “Some arrive at Cape High early, right from church. They visit with friends in anticipation to hear the classics, Broadway show tunes, and old favorites.”

“It’s energizing to be part of a group that makes great music when we’re all working together and playing well. When that happens, the sound is amazing, and the audience lets us know,” Rayman said.

Every year the Lee County Community Band kicks off the season with a salute to veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The Nov. 12 program will feature spirited and patriotic music by American composers, including crowd favorites from the 1940s such as the iconic Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, first made popular in 1941 by The Andrews Sisters.

“Our audience is mainly an older crowd,” Jones said. “They have a lot on their minds. They come to forget what’s going on outside of those doors. They’ve come to be entertained. I’ve been in show business for years. If you tear someone’s ticket you do it with a smile. That’s the beauty of entertainment.”

Cape Coral High School is at 2300 Santa Barbara Boulevard, one block north of Veterans Parkway.

For more information about the Lee County Community Band visit: leecountyband.org

Or, phone Norman Jones at 239-995-2097.