The East Winds Symphonic Band will perform at 2:30 p.m. August 28 in the Amphitheater as the last afternoon concert of the 2016 season.
Based in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh, the group started in 1981 and has grown from 26 musicians to 80 active musicians, with a waitlist of 50 musicians eager to join.
“It’s really distressing to me because there’s all these people who want to play, and I have to say, ‘You’re going to have to wait,’ ” said conductor Susan Sands. “That’s pretty frustrating. Our mission is really to bring music not just to audiences, it’s also for the people who are in the group.”
Sands discovered the group after she became a mother. She wanted to get back into music, having a music education degree, and took her oboe to East Winds. There was an advertisement in the local newspaper that specified “no audition necessary” and she showed up to a rehearsal. The group realized she could play quite well, and within a few years she started conducting the group.
That same open audition process continues today. The group counts both teenagers and nonagenarians among its ranks, along with a smattering of young professionals, according to Sands. Most aren’t professional musicians, but Sands said that’s not really the point.
“We’re looking for the best in people for the group,” she said. “It’s not, you missed that note and that note.”
Even without auditions, East Winds Symphonic Band was honored with the Sudler Silver Scroll from the John Philip Sousa Foundation, a prestigious award recognizing excellent community bands.
Sunday will be the band’s second visit to Chautauqua following a 2012 performance. To conclude a week themed “America’s Music with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center,” the East Winds Symphonic Band presents an all-American program featuring marches, movie music and a variety of other works by American composers, including Bernstein, Copland and more.
Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music for the Institution, will accompany the ensemble on one piece.
Sands said performing in Chautauqua is like “light to the world” for certain members of the intergenerational ensemble, and noted how the Institution shares a commitment to intergenerational learning that’s integral to the group she leads.
“We don’t talk politics. We don’t talk any of those things — thankfully — because we’ve got all sides of those issues,” she said. “The issue we’re together on is music and playing our music really well and we enjoy it and it brings us refreshment. It brings us pleasure.”