Weekly Feature

2015-05-27 / Front Page

Music department preparing for 50th annual Kleinhans concert


For a half-century, students in the band programs at Clarence High School have had the unique ability to perform in one of Western New York’s architectural and cultural jewels — Kleinhans Music Hall. This Friday, the Clarence community will gather at Symphony Circle to celebrate the 50th annual Kleinhans concert, which began thanks to the generosity of a bus driver.

“Fifty years ago, there was a group of band boosters started by a man named Norbert Buskey,” said Lou Vitello, music teacher and Symphonic Band director. “The boosters were talking about putting on a special concert someplace significant and were knocking around the idea of maybe Kleinhans. A bus driver named Arthur Zimmerman who drove the bands around to all of their performances said, ‘Here’s a hundred bucks — let’s get it started.’ And that’s how it began, and we have been privileged to be doing an annual concert there ever since.

“For the last 50 years, we have been the only district in Western New York that has been allowed to do this, and I think the year that we don’t do it would be the year Kleinhans says, ‘OK, we’re done.’”

Vitello said that throughout the years the boosters have brought in special guest artists to help sell tickets to offset the cost of renting the hall. This year, 10-time Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Arturo Sandoval will be the special guest artist, performing with the Concert Band, Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble. Past guest performers at the Clarence bands concert have included Doc Severinsen, Herbie Hancock, conductors of major university programs across the country and various composers.

About 175 students in all are involved in the band programs at Clarence High School.

“The students are extremely excited about performing with Arturo, and on top of that, some of the bands have a composer that wrote a special piece for them. Each piece will have its world premiere at the Kleinhans concert,” Vitello said. “We have been planning this event for the last five or six years to be honest. The Kleinhans event is always a major deal for the department. Five years ago two boosters said why don’t we commission works for the 50th?”

The show will open with a performance by the Jazz Ensemble.

The Concert Band will perform three pieces, including one with Sandoval. The Concert Band will also premiere “Cradle of Rhythm” by Thomas Duffy.

Symphonic Band has five pieces planned, including one with Sandoval and one that will feature student soloist Mason Sebian.

The Symphonic Band will also premiere “Hymn for World Peace” by David Maslanka.

The Wind Ensemble will be doing six pieces, including one with Sandoval and one by Lauren Scanio, this year’s concerto champion. Wind Ensemble will also be performing a short trumpet trio featuring Sandoval and students Cassidy Reed and Anne Bennett. The Wind Ensemble will premiere original work “Festival of Wind and Percussion” by Robert Jager.

Vitello said a lot of credit for the show this Friday goes to former band boosters president Sandra Berkman and treasurer Susan Keiser, who came up with the idea to commission the original works. The bands have been practicing them since February.

About 2,400 tickets for the show have been sold, and Kleinhans has a capacity of about 2,800.

“It’s definitely our goal to sell out,” Vitello said.

Tickets cost $15 and can be obtained for Friday’s 7 p.m. show by calling music department secretary Cheryl Rollo at 407-9040 or by emailing her at crol lo@clarenceschools.org.

email: sjagord@beenews.com

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