Eleventh annual Veterans Tribute Concert celebrates different military eras

FSU West Central Band conductor Richard Scott Cohen leads the band in their final rehearsal before their Sunday concert. (Pioneer photo/Josh Roesner)

FSU West Central Band conductor Richard Scott Cohen leads the band in their final rehearsal before their Sunday concert. (Pioneer photo/Josh Roesner)

BIG RAPIDS — The 11th annual Veterans Day Concert will feature several famous songs celebrating anniversaries this year along with, for the first time, a theatrical piece.

The nearly 70 members of the Ferris State University West Central Concert Band have been rehearsing since September, said conductor and Ferris musical director Richard Scott Cohen.

“I often times will pick pieces that reflect a different war era to honor the vets from those specific wars,” Cohen said. “Sometimes we’ll do something that features a specific branch of service, and sometimes it’s a general patriotic kind of thing.

“I also will look for certain anniversary dates. This year is the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, so we’re doing a piece that includes part of the Gettysburg Address as part of the arrangement.”

The concert, which begins at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 10, in G. Mennen Williams Auditorium on the campus of Ferris, is free and open to the public.

The tribute concert got its start when Cohen started teaching at Ferris 12 years ago.

“When I first came here, there was only one concert that had been scheduled (for the West Central band),” he said. “This Veterans Day concert is something I had experienced at my first college job and the person who I had replaced there, who had retired, had started the Veterans Day concert there.”

The concert also will feature two guest conductors, as well as a performance of a one-act play written by a local playwright and veteran.

Dacho Dachoff, who taught at Ferris for nearly 30 years, will turn 92 later this month. He will be guest conductor for the “From Maine to Oregon March” by John Philip Sousa.

“We often times will play Sousa marches at these concerts because he’s the most famous American march composer and he was the director of the marine band,” Cohen said. “We’re doing two of his marches. One is celebrating its 125th anniversary, (and is) called, ‘Semper Fidelis,’ which is a march he wrote for the marines, and that’s a really popular march. Much less known is a march called, ‘From Maine to Oregon’ and it is the 100th anniversary of that march.”

University President David Eisler also will guest conduct the band during their rendition of the “Semper Fidelis March.”

Following the Armed Forces Salute, where the band will play the anthems of each branch of the armed forces while veterans of each branch in attendance will stand for recognition, will be the one-act play, “Objects in the Mirror are Closer than They Appear.”

The play was written by Big Rapids resident Jim Samuels and will be performed by Al Aikin. It will also feature a multimedia presentation prepared by Jeff Gabalis using photographs taken by Samuels. This is the first time the concert will feature a theatrical component, Cohen added.

While the majority of veterans in attendance will be listening to the performance, there are several veterans in the band.

Anthony Weglarz, an Air Force veteran, played in the Air Force band while he served.

“When I got out, I played all over the Detroit area,” Weglarz said. “When I retired up to Cadillac, it stunned me that they played this kind of music, which is what I was used to playing.”

Weglarz added he enjoys playing the entire line-up of music selected for this year’s concert, saying all of the pieces are equally challenging.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “It gives me the chance to revitalize myself.”

Retired Air Force Maj. Art Sherwood is in his 17th year with the West Central Band playing bassoon. His favorite pieces from this year’s concert are the Armed Forces Salute and “The Ultimate Patriotic Sing-along,” which includes “The Battle Hymm of the Republic,” “America the Beautiful,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “God Bless the U.S.A.”

“(The salute) is my favorite; we play it every year,” Sherwood said. “It’s quite a tribute. The Sing-along is always very enjoyable because it gets the audience involved.”

Ferris men’s hockey coach Bob Daniels and army veteran Michelle Shell also will speak prior to the band’s performance.

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