Community Band Spotlight March 2009: The Allentown Band March 17 2009, 2 Comments

Hey all! It's a new month, so we're here to present our next inductee in the Community Band Spotlight. This month we're introducing the Allentown Band from Allentown, PA. This band is really cool for a lot of reasons, so read on to find out why! John Philip Sousa created dozens of the most popular American patriotic marches, also some of the most recognizable songs in American history.  These songs are performed countless times a year by both military ensembles and by small community-style bands. The Allentown Band of Allentown, PA, is no stranger to Sousa’s music. Dating back to 1828, they are the oldest civilian concert band in America, and past band members had the privilege of being recruited for Sousa’s own private professional band, no doubt returning to the Allentown Band with insight and expertise in how to perform Sousa pieces. Because of this historical connection, the works of John Philip Sousa are a given for the Allentown Band. Conductor Ronald Demkee is responsible for the selection of all the music the band plays with input from the band and audience. According to Demkee, “the band enjoys and is comfortable playing a wide variety of music and styles,” but Sousa is the favorite. In addition to having a Sousa heritage, the Allentown Band has had members who have served in the bands of the military, including the Marine Band, Army Band, Army Field Band, Navy Band, Air Force Band, and Coast Guard Band. Three of the seventy-two current members served in the Army Band, the US Military Academy Band of West Point, and the Air Force Band. The seventy-two members of the band range in age from 17 to 83, and a number of high school students are part of the band. Something cool the Allentown Band does with younger students in the area is the Side By Side Program, where “up to fifty advanced instrumental music students from seven counties join to play side by side with members of the Allentown Band in a public concert in Allentown’s Symphony Hall.” This helps give the kids experience playing in a larger setting and also provides a fun opportunity for them to play with more experienced musicians who can no doubt teach them a thing or two! What we thought was really cool about the Allentown Band is that they’ve recorded albums. And we’re not talking two or three CDs. We’re talking 24 volumes of a series called “Our Band Heritage.” These volumes have made it to listeners across all 50 states and to 17 countries around the world. They made their debut at the famous Carnegie Hall in 2007, and they’ve even traveled to Europe to perform in Switzerland, Austria, and France! While in France in June of 2008, they served as the US Representative in the St Tropez International Music Festival. Who better to represent the nation than her own premier civilian band! With a heritage as rich in music and American history as theirs, we are proud to present the Allentown Band as Altissimo! Recordings’ Community Band Spotlight of March 2009. For more information on the Allentown Band, visit their website. *Special thanks to the Allentown Band's Conductor Ronald Demkee for his help in preparing this article!! All quoted material is from correspondence with Mr Demkee* **If you have a suggestion for a community band to feature in our Spotlight, please email with the subject line Community Band Spotlight.