Community Band reunites for Independence Day concert

The Chautauqua Community Band practices in the Amphitheater earlier in the week. Photo by Adam Birkan.

Kelsey Burritt | Staff Writer

Red, white and blue will be the colors of choice today, but at 12:15 p.m. on Bestor Plaza, a particular shade of light blue will stand out.

The Chautauqua Community Band, all donning light blue Community Band shirts, will come together to play the 22nd Annual Independence Day concert.

Bestor Plaza will be covered with blankets and lawn chairs, packed with families enjoying a Fourth of July picnic lunch. The audience will watch family, friends and neighbors participate in the Children’s School parade, followed by the Community Band’s concert. The concert is a mix of familiar, Americana classics and traditional sing-alongs.

“The Community Band is the only place where anyone who plays an instrument can participate,” said band director and founder Jason Weintraub, also English horn player for the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. “It is a true community band.”

There will be plenty of families on the Bestor Plaza lawn, but there will also be several in the band. One is Weintraub’s own family, with his wife, Nancy, in the percussion section and son Benny in the clarinet section. Benny has played in the band since its inception.

“I always look forward to July Fourth,” Benny Weintraub said of the lawn concert. “It’s part of the spirit, right?”

The Community Band plays two concerts each season, the Independence Day concert and another for Old First Night. The band has only one rehearsal before each conc 0ert.

The Independence Day concert is an hourlong concert featuring classic John Philip Sousa marches, ending with a traditional sing-along. The audience on the lawn can join in for songs such as “The Good Old Summertime” and “God Bless America.”

“They know the songs to sing, and they know the songs to whistle,” Weintraub said. “This is Chautauqua — they sing everywhere.”

There is no typical band member. Some are as young as 11, and there is no age limit. They arrive, instruments in hand, from all around Chautauqua. Some are members of the CSO playing different instruments, some are music students in the School of Music, and some are people from Westfield, Mayville and Jamestown.

Band clarinetist Hal Reisenfeld began playing a few years ago after his friend and fellow clarinetist Dick Buxbaum convinced him to start. Buxbaum has been in the band for the past 10 years.

Jan Eberle, principal oboist for the CSO, plays piccolo in the Community Band. Katherine Borst Jones, professor of flute at Ohio State University, also plays in the band.

One flutist is a longtime Chautauquan who just joined the band for her first year. Although she had come to Chautauqua for many years, the weeks had never lined up for her to play with the band. Already making friends, she looks forward to the concert for her kids.

“They are going to be so excited,” she said. “One is in Children’s School and one in Group One, so they are going to be singing on those steps, and we’re going to have a great day.”