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Concert pays tribute to the armed forces

T he Southern Oregon Concert Band's annual Veteran's Day Concert is noted for inspiring a sense of patriotism and empathy for the men and women who have served our country, says director Theodore Dollarhide.

"I'm really amazed," said Dollarhide, a music teacher at Rogue Community College. "People like it a lot. I had students go and do a concert report on it and the common thread of what they said was that it made them feel so patriotic. "They were surprised it had such an effect on them, because a lot of people feel so jaded."

The popular performance, attended by over 800 people last year, starts at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, at Medford Armory, 1701 S. Pacific Highway.

The 101-year-old Ashland-based band will be accompanied by the Swing Kings and the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers in a free concert.

The program will celebrate all veterans but, it will honor members of the Oregon National Guard who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, he noted.

A Cub Scout pack and ONG color guard will open with the presentation of the colors and Pledge of Allegiance, so "the opening should be very moving, very powerful," said Dollarhide.

The 65-member SOCB will perform "Armed Forces Salute," "America the Beautiful," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," from the Civil War, and Aaron Copland's lofty and stirring "Fanfare for the Common Man," composed in the depths of Word War II.

The Repertory Singers, under the direction of Paul French, will accompany the band in the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "America the Beautiful," said SOCB principal trumpet Harry Kannasto. The band frequently seeks to include other groups in its performances, he notes.

The Swing Kings Big Dance Band, led by Kannasto, will perform jazz, swing and popular hits from the World War II era and the 1950s. The performance will also include some music for those of the Vietnam generation and beyond, including Chuck Berry's "Rock and Roll Music."

"This is one of our biggest events of the year," said Jon Kimball, who plays the tuba in SOCB.

The Concert Band started in 1909 as the Hillah Temple Shrine Band in Ashland. It has since performed free of charge, with members on a volunteer, non-audition basis, "as long as they can handle the part," said alto saxaphonist Ling Helphand, the band's board director.

Members range in age from 16 to 92, and many of them have been members for 20 to 40 years, Helphand said.

Ashland native Kannasto, 79, has performed in the Ashland City Band for 59 years. He also directs the Sauerkraut German Band, which performs at Oktoberfest events.

Kannasto said the Veteran's Day performance "has the purpose to recognize all those who have been in the service or given their lives for our country. It's a big day that everyone recognizes as important to them and their families."

The SOCB practices from 7 to 9 p.m. every Tuesday at Ashland Middle School.

Its philosophy, according to its Web site, is to choose music "that is designed to please our audiences. Programs are chosen based on their musical value. We wish to communicate with our audiences and leave them with a warm feeling. Occasionally we will introduce a piece that challenges the audience and the musicians more than usual, but we will not compromise on the quality of the composition. We play music written originally for band as well as quality transcriptions of the best orchestral music. We also include literature in the pops category, marches and patriotic music."

The band has members from all over the Rogue Valley, including a mother-son duet, and a World War II combat photographer and correspondent for the "Stars and Stripes," as well as several retired and active music teachers.

While the SOCB performs free, donations are welcomed at concerts. Contributions can also be made by phone at 482-0615, or through the band's Web site: www.socband.org/support.

This year's Veteran's Day concert presented by the Southern Oregon Concert Band will pay tribute to the Oregon National Guard. - Photo courtesy of the Southern Oregon Concert Band