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American Legion Band of the Tonawandas to deliver fresh, diverse Amp performance

American Legion Band of the Tonawandas’ rich history is coming back to Chautauqua Institution.

The group will perform 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 1 in the Amphitheater.

Formed in 1929 by World War I veterans and American Legion members, American Legion Band of Tonawandas is a 90-member concert band based in Tonawanda, New York. The band is a diverse group of Western New Yorkers, with occupations ranging from education to engineering; the group is dominated by music professionals and educators.

The American Legion Band of the Tonawandas plays during their concert Sunday, July 31, 2016, in the Amphitheater. Photo by: Mike Clark

“It’s a very high-quality music organization,” said David Abrahamian, president and business manager.

Members range from high school students to musicians in their 70s. Abrahamian joined the band in 1969.

The group is volunteer- based and audition only.

“It’s a lot of work to keep a community group like this performing at such a high level because the musicians are all volunteers and placement in the group is by audition process, so it’s not just anybody can come in play,” Abrahamian said.

The band rehearses yearround with up to 30 annual performances, performing between 60 and 70 pieces each year.

“(American Legion Band of the Tonawandas) plays a wide variety of music such as marches, showtimes, classics, overtures, jazz pieces, vocal features, instrumental features, so it’s program music for just about anybody,” Abrahamian said.

The group is no stranger to the Amp stage. They last performed at the Institution in 2016.

“Chautauqua is a very prestigious performance venue,” Abrahamian said. “It has an audience that appreciates quality performances and the facility can accept a large group like ours and really provides a superior listening experience. The group members really feel proud to be invited to Chautauqua — it’s truly a highlight of the group’s performance season.”

Despite the group’s recent appearance on the grounds, the audience can expect some new material.

“The pieces are all new. Every concert is all new pieces, so it’s not like people are going to come and hear the same thing over again,” Abrahamian said. “The Chautauqua program is considered a very special program to the group, and hopefully we put together a program that everyone is truly going to enjoy.”

This season, the band will be performing during Week Two, themed “American Identity.”

Abrahamian said the group will play a number of pieces by American composers, including George Gershwin, Richard Rogers and John Williams, as well as themes from “Star Wars.”

“We are also performing a brand new piece called ‘Voices of America’, and it’s a vocal feature,” he said. “I think that would play into the theme.”

The history of the group also plays into “American Identity,” according to Abrahamian, because of its roots in the military and diverse backgrounds.

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The author Maggie Prosser

Maggie Prosser will be covering the morning lecture series this summer for the Daily. Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, she is a rising sophomore studying journalism in Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College. Outside of her studies, she serves as news editor at The New Political, an independent political publication at OU.