Americana in the plaza

Daily file photo.

Chautauqua Community Band celebrates tradition with annual Fourth of July concert

Lauren Hutchison | Staff Writer

Dust off your tuba or your tenor sax — Uncle Weintraub wants you!

The Chautauqua Community Band welcomes all instrumentalists for its Independence Day concert, which takes place at 12:15 p.m. today on Bestor Plaza.

Director Jason Weintraub started the all-inclusive group 21 years ago. It has grown from a few dozen members into a group of more than 70 people of all ages and experience levels.

Weintraub, who is also the personnel and business manager and English horn player for the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, created the band to include all aspects of the Chautauqua community. Musicians from the CSO and Music School Festival Orchestra play alongside music educators, visiting professionals and amateurs.

Every year, families come from Chautauqua and beyond to pack the plaza with lawn chairs, blankets and picnic baskets. Spectators decked out in red, white and blue wave flags in time with the music, singing along with traditional tunes.

2010 Chautauqua Community Band

In addition to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” John Philip Sousa marches and other patriotic music, this year’s program features highlights from the musical “Oklahoma,” tango music, a march for children ages 2 to 9 and a sing-along medley.

“If you want a Norman Rockwell experience, come and see us play,” Weintraub said. “The plaza is full, and people dress up. It’s become part of the Chautauqua tradition.”

Grandparents, parents and children have played in the band as a family. Even musicians who aren’t typically part of a concert band have joined and created their own parts for the music. Weintraub said no one is turned away from today’s concert, even if they’ve missed the rehearsal, which took place on June 30.

Kay Logan, former CSO flutist and the Community Band’s principal triangle, has been performing with the band since its first concert.

“Not every song had a triangle part, so Jason said to just ad-lib,” she said. “It’s the best time if you’re a ding-a-ling.”

Logan said the band is a cultural experience and a time for people to let their hair down. It’s also a place for musicians to experiment with new instruments or pick up an instrument they haven’t played for awhile.

“The band allows people to express themselves and to do so without a threat,” she said.

Joe Prezio said that after 47 years of not playing tuba, he saw the Community Band and ran out to buy the first tuba he could find. Sixteen years later, he now owns four tubas, but more importantly, he’s playing tuba and banjo in the band and with other music groups.

“The Community Band is a tremendous amount of glue that brings people together,” he said.

Out of the Community Band, Prezio and other band members formed Thursday Morning Brass in 1998. The brass ensemble performs regularly around the Chautauqua grounds and collects donations to fund scholarships for School of Music students. Other groups founded by Community Band members include the Chautauqua Brass Ensemble, Dixie Lakesiders, Summer Strummers and Fairpointe Brass.

“It shows the importance of the Community Band,” Prezio said. “Without it, these groups would not be here today.”

Prezio credited Jason Weintraub and his wife, Nancy, for the positive effects the Community Band has had on its members and on the Chautauqua community.

“If it weren’t for Jason, we’d all be comatose or reading a book,” he said. “It can’t be beat, and the lead is Jason.”

Prezio passed on a piece of advice for anyone considering joining the band: “Just go do it!”

The Chautauqua Community Band will perform again during Old First Night, at 12:15 p.m. Aug. 2 on Bestor Plaza.