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Lakewood Hometown Band celebrates 50 years

 

By SUE BOTOS

LAKEWOOD- When internationally known conductor Loras John Schissel raises the baton to begin the Lakewood Hometown Band concert on Aug. 13 at Lakewood Park, it will be a historic performance.

“This is one the oldest professional bands around,” said Don Santa-Emma, music contractor for Playhouse Square and other local venues. Santa-Emma, former director of the Ohio State Fair Band, said that besides marking the group’s 50th anniversary, the concert will offer the unique opportunity of allowing the audience to hear elite musicians for free.

“It’s almost the same band that you would see at Blossom (Music Center). The only difference is that they’re not wearing white tuxedos,” added Santa-Emma. Despite the “Hometown” name, which dates back to the band’s beginnings in 1967, Santa-Emma said that the group has always been composed of professional musicians representing the Cleveland Orchestra, the Akron Symphony, the Blossom Festival Band, which Schissel leads annually for a July 4th salute to John Philip Sousa, and other area orchestras.

Santa-Emma took his final bow on the podium at the Ohio State Fair in 2015. He recalled that Lakewood has always been supportive of the band, which used to play about eight concerts on summer Sunday evenings at the Lakewood Park band shell. “But for a variety of reasons, they had to cut back. Now they play just one concert a year,”  saidSanta-Emma, who conducted the 25th anniversary concert in June of 1992.

Funding, of course, he said was a major reason for the cut-back to one performance per year, usually the last one of Lakewood’s concert series. He said that money from the Music Performers’ Trust and the National Federation of Musicians, which has supported the concert in the past, have dried up to a trickle.

Santa-Emma, who is responsible for securing the musicians for the concert, said the group will gather at 3 p.m. Sunday for one rehearsal before taking the stage at 7 p.m. While the program will consist of many favorite American tunes, there is bound to be plenty of Sousa, as Schissel is known as one of the foremost experts on the “March King”, and conducts in a Sousa-styled uniform.

NOTE: The Lakewood Hometown Band Concert will be held 7 p.m. Aug. 13 at the Lakewood Park Band Shell.

 

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