Tonawandas Legion Band brings award-winning sound to Amp

The American Legion Band of the Tonawandas may have performed all over the nation and even in several international venues, but for some reason it can’t stay away from Chautauqua.

The band will return to the Institution once again Sunday afternoon to perform a symphonic Pops setlist in the style of John Philip Sousa at 2:30 p.m. in the Amphitheater. It will include famous marches such as “Black Horse Troop” and “Tennessee Salute,” show tunes such as “I Dreamed a Dream,” selections from “My Fair Lady,” and other military band favorites. It will also feature five soloists in a brass quintet for the song “That’s a Plenty.”

The band formed in 1929 when World War I veterans and Post 264 members came together to celebrate music. The group
currently has 85 members — 90 with the Color Guard — and performs at concerts, parades and competitions.

The musicians, under the direction of Michael Shaw, vary in age from their teens to their 70s. They come from all different backgrounds and occupations, ranging from students to music instructors to engineers. According to David Abrahamian, the group’s president, the band allows its members a chance to enjoy music and keep their instrumental proficiencies up to par.

“They come from many walks of life,” Abrahamian said. “What’s common about them is that [music] is something they’ve enjoyed throughout their lives.”

The band, which is a not-for-profit corporation, consists entirely of volunteers who are selected through an audition process. It has won numerous championships at the state level, 19 national championships and six international championships at the Canadian National Exhibit. The band also travelled to the Sydney Opera House in 1992 for the Pacific Basin International Music Festival, where it received a gold medal for outstanding performance.

Despite a busy competition and concert schedule, Abrahamian said the band looks forward to playing at the Institution each year. He cites both the Amphitheater’s acoustics and the audience’s enthusiasm as components in making Chautauqua a great location to perform.

“The Amphitheater is one of the finer facilities we play in. It allows us to sound the way we’re supposed to sound,” he said. “We also get a good reception from the people at Chautauqua. They appreciate the band. We look forward to playing in Chautauqua, and I think the audience looks forward to hearing us as well.”