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  • Monday, August 27, 2018

    Band of the Tonawandas Is Legion’s National Champion

    Band of Tonawandas

    American Legion Band of the Tonawandas marches through the Minneapolis Convention Center. Photo by Robert Stronach.

    The American Legion Band of the Tonawandas (Post 264) is The American Legion’s concert band champion.

    The band took first place in the national concert band competition at the American Legion Centennial Convention in Minneapolis, MN.

    Following the triumph – it’s the band’s 21st national championship – the band members performed at the Department of New York’s reception Saturday evening, then marched through the convention ballroom to celebrate the election of New York’s Greg “Doc” Gibbs as national commander of the Sons of the American Legion Sunday morning, and capped off the day performing in the convention parade late Sunday afternoon.

    Band President David Abrahamian, principal clarinetist, explained that the band grabbed the title with a score of 95.8 points after playing three selections. Other top finishers:

    2nd place – the Joliet American Legion Band from Joliet, IL, with 91.9 points.
    3rd place – Oconomowoc American Legion Band from Oconomowoc, WI, with 91.6 points
    4th place – Kansas City American Legion Band from Kansas City, MO, with 89.2 points
    5th place – Brattleboro American Legion Band from Brattleboro, VT, with 81.2 points
    6th place – 9th district American Legion Band from Moorhead, MN, with 77.8 points

    The Band of the Tonawandas performed the following three pieces, Abrahamian related.

    1. Dance 1 (from Jazz Suite No. 2 in Suite for Variety Orchestra) by Dmitri Shostakovich and arranged by Johan de Meij.

    2. Hobart Centennial, a march by James Barnes. The composer’s works have been performed at Tanglewood, Boston Symphony Hall, Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center. Hobart Centennial was commissioned for the 100th anniversary of Hobart, Oklahamo (established Aug. 8, 1901), where Barnes was born. It premiered on Hobart’s courthouse lawn by the 145th U.S. Army Reserve Band, with the composer conducting.

    3. Lexicon of the Gods by Rossano Galante, a Buffalo trumpet player who went on to a career in film composition and orchestration. The piece is scored in three movements. 1) Perseus: slayer of Medusa; 2) Penthos: the spirit of grief; Zeus: God of sky and thunder.

    Abrahamian provided the following history of the American Legion Band of the Tonawandas, which was formed in 1929 by World War I veterans and Post 264 members. The band (currently 80 members at full strength) draws its membership from a broad cross-section of Western New Yorkers. The members have diverse occupations and backgrounds including management, engineering, business, medicine, government, sales, and industry. A large number are instrumental music educators, or graduates or students of university music programs. Membership is open to all musicians based upon placement evaluation and section vacancies. None of the musicians is compensated.

    “The Band has and always will stand ready to aid in any worthwhile community function and to uphold the great tradition of the American Legion.”

    The band rehearses and performs year-round — up to 30 performances annually. Formal concerts are performed between the months of September and June in area schools and theaters. The band has been New York State American Legion Senior Band champion almost continuously since 1947, and American Legion Senior Band National Champion in 1972-73, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010 , 2011, 2012, 2015 & 2018. It also was the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) International Band Champion on six occasions. At the CNE, the President’s Trophy was permanently awarded to the Band after winning it for three consecutive years, a feat never before accomplished in the history of the CNE band contest. The Band has been videotaped by P.B.S. for a nationally televised special portraying the band of John Philip Sousa. In addition to competitive performances, the Band has been invited to perform at conventions for the New York State School Music Association, the New York State Band Directors Association, and the Association of Concert Bands national convention. The Band received a Gold Medal for its performance in the Sydney (Australia) Opera House as the United States representative to the International Music Festival in 1992. The Band additionally performed in the Showcase Concert of the 2004 New York Wind Band Festival held in Carnegie Hall.

    The band can be heard on the full-length stereo recordings: Strike Up the Band! conducted by the late Herbert Ludwig; In Competition, Vol. II & Vol. III, It’s Showtime!, The Spirit of Liberty , Let’s Dance and March Masterpieces conducted by William Weikert, and Sounds of Christmas conducted by Michael Shaw.