Sunday Afternoon Entertainment

With Joshua Stafford on Massey, Chautauqua to close out entertainment series ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’

Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist and Director of Sacred Music Joshua Stafford performs the score to the Charlie Chaplin film “The Gold Rush” on the Massey Memorial Organ July 25, 2021, in the Amphitheater. Dave Munch/Photo Editor

Julia Weber
Staff writer

To wrap up the 2023 season of programming at Chautauqua Institution, a beloved annual program takes the stage: the Massey Organ Movie.

At 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater, Chautauqua will continue its new tradition of a silent film screening with accompaniment.

This year’s selection is the 1923 film “Hunchback of Notre Dame.” The classic film explores romance, retaliation and mortality. Starring lengendary actor Lon Chaney, the film is described as being an occasion that will “delight film buffs and new fans alike,” according to the event description.

The classic film centers on Quasimodo, a hunchbacked bell ringer for the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. At the time it was created, the film was one of the most expensive ever, costing more than $1.25 million, according to the American Society of Cinematographers.

“Hunchback of Notre Dame” has “spectacle in the best sense of the word, fine performances, cinematography which set new standards in several respects, steady direction which kept all the sprawling elements of the picture under control, magnificent settings, and faithfulness to the spirit of a literary classic,” the society wrote in a retrospective piece about the film.

The silent film will be accompanied by the Massey Memorial Organ for this special event. Joshua Stafford, who is an award-winning organist and native of Jamestown, New York, will perform the score.

In 2021, Stafford was officially named the Department of Religion’s director of sacred music and Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist after serving in the role in an interim capacity during the 2020 season. Outside of his role at Chautauqua Institution, he serves as the Minister of Music at First Congregational Church in Columbus, Ohio.

Through Guggenheim’s Works & Progress, Beatbox House launches Week 9 residency with Sunday Amp performance

Beatbox House

Weekend afternoons in the Amphitheater have seen orchestral performances, ballet galas, piano recitals, and even a mad scientist. And at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amp, a different kind of art form will be on stage with The Beatbox House — a collective of World Champion Beatboxers, based in New York City and hailing from different regions of the country. The five core members of the collective — Gene Shinozaki, Kenny Urban, NaPoM, Amit and Chris Celiz — are each a soloist, educator and musician in their own right, rebranding the art as a new form of music and is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with the human voice.

Sunday afternoon launches a weeklong residency for The Beatbox House at Chautauqua, through a partnership with Works & Process at the Guggenheim.

With a focus on educational outreach, the collective has performed across the globe, on hundreds of stages from subway platforms to the Plaza Hotel, high school cafeterias to a tour of Indonesia and Singapore, representing the U.S. State Department  through the storied American Music Abroad Program. 

“We depend upon our American artists to join in our country’s diplomacy,” Lee Satterfield, the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, told The New York Times in an email for a story on the news of The Beatbox House’s American Music Abroad Program tour. Partnering with mission-driven performers like The Beatbox House, she told the Times, is part of the department’s goal to “expand the reach of music diplomacy.”

Josh Stafford, on Massey, to present comedic Keaton classic


In what has become an annual tradition at Chautauqua Institution, Director of Sacred Music and Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist Joshua Stafford is ready to take to the keys and pedals of the Massey Memorial Organ — not for worship or a recital, but to accompany a silent film projected onto the Amphitheater’s screens.

At 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28 in the Amp, Stafford will present “Steamboat Bill Jr.: A Massey Organ Movie,” playing along to the 1928 comedy starring silent film icon Buster Keaton. 

Dave munch / daily file photo Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist and Director of Sacred Music Joshua Stafford performs the score to the Charlie Chaplin film “The Gold Rush” on the Massey Memorial Organ July 25, 2021, in the Amphitheater.

Stafford started playing along to silent films on the Amp stage in 2021 with “Safety Last!” and the Charlie Chaplin classic “Gold Rush.” After a silent Amp in 2020, to perform such light-hearted fare was welcome.

“It really brought me a lot of joy,” Stafford told Daily reporter Nick Danlag after the first film of the summer, “Safety Last!” “After being here last season with absolutely nobody around in an empty Amphitheater the two times we were able to use it, to have a room full of people just laughing their heads off, it was so satisfying. It made me so happy.”

“Steamboat Bill Jr.” is the first Keaton film Stafford will play on the Massey, but several years ago he played a Keaton short for around 500 elementary school students in the Performing Arts Center of San Luis Obispo  — “hearing the howls of laughter at this movie from the ’20s, it was so great,” Stafford said about that experience.

“Steamboat Bill Jr.” — in which the son of a cantankerous riverboat captain comes to join his father’s crew (and hijinks ensue) — wasn’t a box office success; The New York Times even called it a “gloomy comedy” and a “sorry affair.” But over the years, it has grown to be regarded as a masterpiece of its era. It has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and was included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

To prepare for these performances — which are improvised, Stafford told Danlag — the organist will watch the film around five times and think of different themes for different characters and which scene to emphasize. 

“I find comedies to actually be the toughest of the silent movies to play because your timing is so much,” Stafford told Danlag. “You have to be so precise with timing if you want to get that slapstick moment just right.”

Ultimately, Stafford said, if it’s done right, the music and the movie will become one.

“At first, it’s a novelty that you’re watching someone improvise this movie, but eventually you sit back into the movie and let it wash over you,” he said in 2021.

High school virtuosos Rhythm Project All-Stars to bring steel drum grooves to Sunday Amp concert


​​The steel pan, widely known only as an instrument of reggae, has an abundance of capability across a variety of musical genres. The Rhythm Project All-Stars are here to introduce Chautauqua to the new world of sound created by these steel pans. 

Consisting of first-rate high school students from southeast Virginia who excel at performing live on the steel drums, the Rhythm Project percussion ensemble tours year-round, earning international acclaim for entertaining concerts and traditional authenticity. Once joining the Rhythm Project’s premiere ensemble, the All-Stars, a high school student can participate in the program until graduation.

Making their Chautauqua debut, these high-energy steel pan prodigies will take the stage at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 10, in the Amphitheater. Audiences can look forward to watching them moving and grooving in synchrony as they drum, and listening as they take turns playing solos.

“For those that have not heard a live steel pan ensemble, get ready for some serious joy that may literally move you,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, senior vice president and chief program officer.

Originating in Trinidad and Tobago, the southernmost Caribbean island, the steel pan began as a reflection of the nation’s African and European roots. Contemporary steel pan musicians now embrace diverse influences from East Indian music to bossa nova, from calypso and soca to jazz. The Rhythm Project’s show will borrow from many of these influences, as well as recognizable radio tunes, all at an upbeat tempo with a highly danceable beat.

“For the Trinidadians in general, one of the best ways to help legitimize their new artform to the world was to show that they could play any style of music,” said Dave Longfellow, director of the All-Stars group, during a 2019 performance at the Kennedy Center.

That versatility will be showcased as the 29-student ensemble moves through different styles, ranging from reggae to disco to classical, each piece taking a different feel from the last.

Along with presenting the sound of the steel pan at its most traditional and innovative, the Rhythm Project is dedicated to sustaining an engaged community of students. The Project aims to nurture students’ confidence while instilling dedication and discipline through individual and cooperative achievement and performance.

“From the moment (I heard) about Rhythm Project, I wanted this community music experience to come to Chautauqua as a model of how organizations can build self-esteem and empathy through youth and the arts,” Moore said.

Students from different high schools and school districts come together as All-Stars, giving them unique opportunities for lifelong friendships and building camaraderie with like-minded musicians. The work ethic developed performing at a professional level in a modern conventional steel band follows them long after graduation.

Aside from a drum kit and auxiliary percussion, the band is composed solely of steel drums, varying in size, pitch and timbre. These drums create a full soprano, alto, tenor and bass choir of voices. The steel pan has been the only family of acoustic instruments to be invented in the last hundred years, after the saxophone family in the late 1800s.

“The way the steel pan works is a novel idea,” Longfellow said in 2019. “The smaller the tiny bump of the note is, the higher the frequency, so we have a lot of space to put a bunch of small notes. The lower the note, the bigger the bump, so we need more real estate, so we start adding more instruments.” 

The bass pans, lowest in pitch and with the longest skirt length, require a set of four drums to provide their full voice in the band, whereas the soprano pan requires only one.

Traveling to the direct source of the instrument in 2020 for the Trinidad Panorama, the largest steel pan competition in the world, gave the Rhythm Project students a game-changing opportunity to learn the culture along with the music.

“It absolutely raised the bar in terms of how the students approach and perform the music in the ensemble,” Longfellow said.

The All-Stars — cultural ambassadors of Trinidadian steel pan — are expanding continually into new artistic and creative areas, bringing a multicultural music experience to audiences throughout the United States and Canada. They have “a unique opportunity to break down any preconceived notions about the steel pan,” Longfellow said.

And fair warning: Conga lines and front-row dancing are a real possibility.

‘East Meets West’ as Buffalo Silver Band returns to Amp with JGB Shibuki Taiko ensemble

Buffalo Silver Band Sunday Ent 070322

In a true only-in-Chautauqua experience, the Buffalo Silver Band, a 107-year-old British-style brass band, combines talent and sound with the JGB Shibuki Taiko ensemble, a Japanese drum group, for a program titled “East Meets West.”

At 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 3, in the Amphitheater, these two groups merge for the second time, and for the first at Chautauqua. This one-of-a-kind grouping first performed together in 2021, but have known of one another for longer. 

“Essentially, this all started about three years ago,” said Bill Cocca, the director of the Buffalo Silver Band. “In 2019, I heard Shibuki perform in the Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival and contacted them, and we worked for all the better part of the year to find a place in our schedules to work together.”

While Buffalo Silver Band is returning to the Amp, this will be Shibuki’s debut. This performance will include a wide range of music from marches and American jazz to traditional Japanese taiko drumming.

“We are closing with a composition titled ‘Horizons,’ which I wanted to close with given the nature of our performance of ‘East Meets West,’ ” Cocca said. “I think ‘Horizons’ encapsulates the British brass band sound.”

Cocca hopes that Chautauquans realize with this performance that these two groups are more alike than different.

“What was alluring, I think for both of us, was that there are some stark differences in what we do, but more so there are some wonderful similarities in what we do. … Both groups share a sense of community,” Cocca said. 

Jennifer Leising, drummer and media manager for JGB Shibuki, finds the combined sounds of the two groups to be unique. 

“It is rewarding to hear the sounds of taiko alongside the powerful brass instruments to create an enveloping, deeper sound experience for the audience than we normally would be able to on our own,” Leising said

This collaboration has allowed both groups to adapt and grow, Leising said. 

“The opportunity to collaborate with an established, accomplished set of musicians in the Buffalo Silver Band has challenged and rewarded our group with a very unique opportunity,” Leising said.

While both groups perform differently, Cocca said that they share a precedent of tradition.

“With performance style, Shibuki are very visually oriented. They’re exciting to watch. We have a pretty much traditional British-American approach to performance, and we pretty much sit there and make some music,” Cocca said. “The traditional songs that each group makes, they’re working on many centuries worth of taiko history, and we’re working on about 150 years (of) brass band history.”

Leising believes one of the major differences between the groups is how they learn music.

“One major difference in learning styles is that our group learns rhythms by way of kuchi shōga, which phoneticizes — that is, phonetically articulates — drum strokes using Japanese sound symbolism,” Leising said.

Both groups are composed of amateur and semi-professional players. Cocca said that they want to make music and hope to entertain the audience.

“We wanted to get together to show that as different as we look, we are very much the same,” he said. 

Cocca believes that music can transcend differences and cultures.

“I’ve believed that most of my life music is universal. When you think about it, the expressions and emotions that come through, … it transcends language,” he said.

Army Field Band, Chorus to perform for 38th time at Chautauqua


On the last Sunday of the 2021 summer season, the United States Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus closed the season with one last note on the Amphitheater stage. This year, they return at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 26, to ring in the 2022 season. 

“Opening the Sunday Afternoon Entertainment series with a concert representing the strength and fortitude of our nation while thanking our veterans for their service and sacrifice is an honor,” Staff Sergeant Kaci Lewandowski said.  

More than a traditional concert, the band prides itself on providing an immersive experience for all generations with their message of hope and resilience. Sunday’s performance will be the 38th time the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus have performed at Chautauqua. 

“All of the soldiers treasure the opportunity to perform at such a marvelous place with fantastic audience members,” Lewandowski said. “The energy at Chautauqua is invigorating. Regardless of how many days we have been on the road or how many concerts we have played, the performance at Chautauqua always feels the most cohesive and alive. It is truly magical.”

This will be Lewandowski’s second time performing on the grounds with her fellow soldiers. She has been a part of the Field Band for four years and has been playing the French horn for 16 years. 

To become a member of the Army Field Band or Soldiers’ Chorus, prospective soldiers must go through a rigorous all-day audition process, “at the same level of orchestral or other professional choral auditions,” Lewandowski said. Many soldiers have at least one or several performance degrees. 

When soldiers are selected to join the band or chorus, they must attend basic training. Once these steps are taken, soldiers begin preparing for their next mission with the Army Field Band.

The Field Band’s mission is to, “connect the American people to their Army through music,” Lewandowski said. The band and chorus’ vision aligns with what Chautauqua represents and with the Institution’s rich history and appreciation for the arts. 

“We share commonalities of aiming to enrich the lives of others around us and promoting creativity,”
Lewandowski said. 

The Field Army Band and Soldiers’ Chorus have chosen specific pieces to perform with the goal of telling a larger story that represents the soldiers’ service, inclusion, innovation and patriotism. 

“We have combined traditional military music, exciting commercial themes and beautiful lyrical pieces to bring a program that captures the beauty and diversity of America itself,” Lewandowski said. 

To keep each performance fresh and invigorating, the military band commander Colonel Jim R. Keene uses a visionary approach to honor tradition while modernizing their sound. 

“Keene and an outstanding team of soldiers ensure our programs are always fresh and bring something audiences have not seen before on any other stage,” Lewandowski said. 

Sunday’s performance will use musical storytelling to connect listeners through vocal and instrumental solos, she said, “as well as lots of large band writing sure to fill the entire Amphitheater.”

Gonzalez returns for special ‘Aesop Bops!’ show



David Gonzalez, a professional storyteller and poet, conducts a sing-along during an August 2017 Family Entertainment Series performance in Smith Wilkes Hall. CAM BUKER/ DAILY FILE PHOTO

Most of us know Aesop’s classic fables from childhood — but even the classics stand to be reinvented sometimes.

Enter David Gonzalez, a storyteller, musician, poet and actor who’s bringing an interactive afternoon of stories to the grounds for Chautauquans of all ages with “Aesop Bops!” at 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 22 in Smith Wilkes Hall.

“It’s classic stories done with a fresh twist, and it’s really a wonderful intergenerational experience,” Gonzalez said. “Parents and grandparents will know these stories — but not in this way, and sometimes the little ones had never heard them before, so it’s a very fresh, intergenerational storytelling bonanza.”

It would be a mistake to say that Gonzalez will be the only performer at Smith Wilkes on Sunday. He’s lined up an event filled with audience participation and imaginations running wild, and he can’t predict which way it will go — right, left, up or down?

“These shows unfold beat by beat, moment by moment,” he said. “The thing about live performance is that it makes the present moment so very precious. … We’re diving headlong into that moment we’re sharing.”

Sharing those spontaneous moments with an audience is, indeed, precious after a year of virtual performances.

“We we can see and hear each other, we create an environment that’s not three-dimensional, it’s six-dimensional. We are activating our own imaginations, sharing imaginations — and understanding these stories through our own lens, and other people’s points of view,” he said. “So much can go on. So much that can never happen virtually.”

By the end of the show, Gonzalez said, young people in the audience won’t just know the stories of “The Lion and the Mouse” or “The Fisherman’s Wife” — they’ll actually feel like they had a part in creating those stories.

“There’s a ton of laughter and communal sharing and participation, and the kids end up doing the stories along with me,” Gonzalez said. “They end up taking these stories home with them. They own those stories when we’re done.”

This isn’t the first time Gonzalez has performed on the grounds — he did a stint with the Family Entertainment Series in 2017 — and he finds himself drawn to Chautauqua because of a few simple words: “Exploring the best in humanity.”

“My work is eliciting wonder and supporting the exploration of joy and wisdom through a range of stories,” he said. 

Premiere jazz pianist Charlap, trio to perform Sund



Bill Charlap Trio

In July 2020, in the middle of the first summer of COVID-19, parts of Pennsylvania were moving into a “green phase” of re-opening, allowing for somewhat limited indoor dining and live music. The Deer Head Inn, a hotel, restaurant and storied jazz club in the small town of Delaware Water Gap, made the decision to re-open, with widely spaced tables, open windows, temperature checks, the works.

The first musical act of Deer Head’s re-opening? Renowned jazz pianist Bill  Charlap. It had been more than four months since his last performance, and as he told John Marchese of The New York Times, the hiatus was “definitely the longest I can remember. I’m minus a central part of my life.” 

When he took the stage, he told his audience: “There is no substitute for humanity and connection. I wish that I could be closer physically. But I will do everything I can to be as close in every other possible way with the music.”

More than a year later, Charlap is back on the road, with two stops this week at Chautauqua. The first is at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington — the group, known as the Bill Charlap Trio, was formed in 1997 and is recognized as one of the leading groups of jazz.

Charlap has recorded seven albums for Blue Note Records and received two Grammy Award nominations, for Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein and most recently for Bill Charlap Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard.

“Charlap approaches a song the way a lover approaches his beloved. …When he sits down to play, the result is an embrace, an act of possession,” TIME magazine once lauded. “The tune rises, falls, disappears and resurfaces in new forms as Charlap ranges over the keyboard with nimble, crisply swinging lines, subtly layered textures, dense chords and spiky interjections.”

Charlap will again take the Amp stage at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday with celebrated jazz pianist Renee Rosnes — who happens to also be Charlap’s wife —  to play songs from their first collaborative album, Double Portrait, which is a set of four-hand piano duets.

Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus returns to Chautauqua with songs of both joy, solemnity in wake of pandemic



The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus joins the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Rossen Milanov, to perform Verdi’s Requiem at the Amphitheater on Saturday, June 30, 2018. ABIGAIL DOLLINS/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Adam Luebke had a simple description of the last year: “Pretty tough.”

Luebke is the music director for Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus — which, like other choral groups, had to abandon gathering in person indefinitely when COVID-19 hit in early 2020. There was no safe way to perform or even practice in person, since droplets travel even farther through singing than talking, which already had the now-familiar 6-foot distance rule.

“We met regularly on Zoom,” said Luebke, who has been with the Chorus for five years. “We kept going — to provide connections and music making for our chorus members.”

At long last, the Chorus will reunite onstage at Chautauqua at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 8 in the Amphitheater. They will sing Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem in D Minor, Op. 48, in remembrance of victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, and then Antonio Vivaldi’s arrangement of the hymn “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” RV 589, usually simply known as the Vivaldi “Gloria.”

“Everyone is really excited (to perform in person),” Luebke said, “but we want to reflect, and remember those who did not make it through the year.”

The year 2020 wasn’t a total wash for the Chorus, though — the group won its first-ever Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance for appearing alongside the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in a recording of Richard Danielpour’s “The Passion of Yeshua,” conducted by JoAnn Falletta. Luebke said he was proud of the Chorus’ involvement in the project, which was a full-length oratorio with multiple soloists.

The Chorus’ other achievement in the last year and a half was finding a way to continue its yearly tradition of singing Handel’s “Messiah.” 

An in-person performance wasn’t possible, so Luebke and the Chorus found creative ways to record. Small groups of safely distanced singers were recorded separately, and then stitched together. Their performance was broadcast on Buffalo and Toronto’s WNED just in time for the holidays.

Returning to Chautauqua will be the mark of returning to normalcy for Luebke and the Chorus. 

“(We will sing) the Requiem in memorial, and (then the) exciting, thrilling Vivaldi,” Luebke said, “and we’re excited to do this at Chautauqua — a favorite place of the Chorus to perform. We’re thrilled to sing at Chautauqua and share great choral music.”

70th Barbershop Harmony Parade to showcase key ingredients of a strong quartet


Members of the male quartet group The Praetzel Brothers Aaron Praetzel, left, Brian Praetzel, Gray Cullen and Sean Praetzel perform “What a Day for a Daydream” during the Barbershop Harmony Parade on Sunday, August 20, 2017 in the Amphitheater. PAULA OSPINA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The recipe for a barbershop quartet is simple: one lead singer, a pinch of tenor, a dash of baritone and a scoop of bass.

At 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater, Chautauquans will be treated to the Barbershop Harmony Parade. Now in its 70th year, the annual event will feature performances by some of the top barbershop quartets in the region and will culminate in a patriotic finale that will feature over 100 singers on stage.

George Jarrell, Chautauqua show chairman, said the best barbershop quartets have three key ingredients — perfectionism, comradery and stellar song choices.

“We’re ear singers, basically,” Jarrell said. “Most barbershoppers are just guys who hear it and that’s what they follow. They have good intonation and they can produce some really good music.”

Sunday’s performance will include songs like “Cheer Up Charlie,” “Under the Boardwalk,” “Sweet Caroline” and “Bare Necessities” from Disney’s “The Jungle Book.” Jarrell, who sings baritone for Harmony Production Company, said that while many barbershop tunes are from the turn of the 20th century, the genre is expansive.

“For instance, my quartet does a lot of gospel songs. They’re not barbershop, but they’re arranged in the barbershop style,” he said.

Jarrell said the harmonies are barbershop’s greatest appeal.

“We’re not allowed to say ‘ring,’ that’s not a technical name,” Jarrell said. “When the four notes in a barbershop chord are done as perfectly as possible, there’s an overtone or other tones, some of them under, too, and that’s amazing. That’s why when people hear barbershop, their ears perk up.”

Jarrell said this year’s quartets, which include Barbershock and The Harbor House 4, vary in age.

“Since there are four in a quartet, they all have to get along together. If you’re going to produce harmony, you’ve got to have harmony in the whole thing,” Jarrell said. “They’ve got to enjoy each other’s company. That’s what makes a quartet experience really great.”

Sunday’s performance will also feature larger choirs alongside the quartets. The Seneca Statesmen and Harmonic Collective will sing a number of songs, as will the women of Buffalo Gateway Chorus, ensuring that female voices will also be heard in songs like “Wee Small Hours” and “Somewhere Out There.”

The Barbershop Harmony Parade began in the 1950s with a performance by the Buffalo Bills of The Music Man fame. Jarrell, a longtime barbershop devotee, first fell in love with the style 35 years ago in the Amp.

“I know it has been an important ingredient in my life. It’s the only thing I do other than work,” he said. “I don’t bowl, I don’t golf, I don’t do those other things, but I do sing.”

Jarrell said he is grateful for the a cappella Renaissance in the age of Pentatonix, and that the music creates a shared experience between singers and audiences.

“You feel the music in your heart that goes to the other person, and it just is a unique experience and makes the connection between the people, and that’s what life is all about,” he said. “And I love all kinds of music; I just happen to enjoy the harmony.”

Chautauqua audience keeps Brass Band coming back to Amp



The Brass Band of the Western Reserve. Submitted photo.

Patrick Hosken | Staff Writer

The term “Western Reserve” refers to a patch of land in northeast Ohio previously owned by the state of Connecticut in the 18th century. Members of the Brass Band of the Western Reserve picked that name over, say, “Brass Band of Akron,” to highlight the group’s diverse geographical makeup.

“It just seemed like a good name,” said band director Keith M. Wilkinson. “We didn’t want to pinpoint the name to any particular city, because that’s not the band.”

Though it has rehearsal space in Akron, players from Youngstown, Sandusky, Columbus and other Ohio cities comprise the group, which will play at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater.

Wilkinson resides in Columbus, where he teaches mathematics at Capital University. He was a successful brass band director in England before moving to Ohio in 1996. He first took a position as music director for the Salvation Army, which ended after funding dried up. He then sought out local musicians for a new project, one that would eventually become the Brass Band of the Western Reserve.

Since its genesis in fall 1997, the band has performed in venues both large and small, including multiple visits to the Amphitheater. Wilkinson said it’s the audience that keeps the group coming back to the Institution.

“We’ve always found that the Chautauqua audience likes what we do, the variety of music we perform and the quality of the band’s performance,” he said.

That quality comes from camaraderie among band members, Wilkinson said. They play what they like to play, but they also play what audiences respond to and enjoy.

The band has seven recorded albums, and most are usually available to purchase at shows. The latest album, “Without Reserve,” is a play on the band’s name but also serves as a mission statement of sorts, Wilkinson said.

“When we play, we give our everything in terms of making music,” he said. “We play high quality, and we play good repertoire, so we don’t hold anything back.”

Sunday’s show is one of the band’s farthest destinations for a concert. Members travel from the Akron area, where the band played some “fireworks events” last weekend for the Independence Day holiday, Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said audiences can expect the big brass sound the band has become known for — glamorous show tunes and marches — as well as some guest soloist performances and sectional ensemble items.

The band chooses this type of set list, above all, to keep the audience entertained and engaged.

“We’re not out to educate; we’re out to entertain and send people home enjoying music we’ve played with a spring in their step,” he said.

The band has played Chautauqua almost every year since 2004, and Wilkinson said he hopes this collaboration will continue.

“We just love the venue for all sorts of reasons,” he said. “It’s a lovely place to play.”

Award-winning Legion Band returns to Amp

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Seen here in 2010, the American Legion Band of the Tonawandas, Post 264, performs on Sunday afternoon in the Amphitheater. Daily file photo.

Nick Glunt | Staff Writer

The American Legion Band of the Tonawandas, Post 264, will perform at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater. The award-winning concert band, established in 1929, draws its membership from various musicians in western New York.

“(Chautauquans will) get a chance to hear a band that is a special band, really,” said Jim Scott, personnel manager and 50-year member of the band. “We have a handful of professional musicians, and we have some good band music that you’re never going to hear from any other band at Chautauqua.”

The band draws its membership from a great variety of people. The roster includes people involved in management, engineering, medicine, government, sales and education. Scott said diversity is an advantage for the band because members get the chance to work with musicians who are just as talented as they are.

No one in the band is compensated for the work they put forth. Scott said people stay involved because of the opportunities the group offers.

“The band just keeps getting better and better because we just keep getting better musicians,” Scott said.

The band, he said, has a good reputation in the area simply because people like to hear the members play. The following even extends beyond New York because people who move away join other bands all around the country. At national competitions, they encounter former members on a regular basis.

At the band’s past performances, many Chautauqua residents came from beyond the grounds to see the group, Scott said.

“We get a variety of people coming to listen to us that live in Chautauqua,” he said.