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Santa Monica Emeritus College Band to Perform Saturday

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By Lookout Staff

February 6, 2014 -- There aren’t many chances to catch a free performance at Santa Monica College’s award-winning Broad Stage, or to tap your toes with a tight, spry band with members who are in their 80s and even 90s.

You can do both when SMC’s Emeritus College Concert Band performs traditional, popular and show tune favorites this Saturday at noon. The concert will include selections from “A Tribute to Harold Arlen,” “Les Miserables” and “My Fair Lady.”

There will also be a good old fashioned Sousa march to uphold the 45-year-old band’s tradition. A former member of the Emeritus Band once played with John Phillip Sousa, the famous American composer who died in 1932.

Originally founded by Wallace Umber in 1968, the community band was meant to be part of an adult learning continuation class for the Venice Adult School before funding cuts under California’s Prop 13 in 1978. But Umber kept the band together by rehearsing at Emerson Junior High School, where he taught music.

In 1979, Umber brought the band to Emeritus College. They have performed continuously since then, with a musical library of more than 800 arrangements, from Broadway show tunes to Dixieland, to John Phillip Sousa marches, said Craig Peterson, who plays trumpet in the band.

An entirely volunteer venture, the band is comprised of “mostly retired” persons and is made up of brass, woodwinds and percussion instruments. Some of its members once played for the Santa Monica High School band, which was established in 1915.

A prediction made by Peterson before last year’s concert still stands. “I’m betting,” he said, “that some of the younger people who come see (the band) will end up playing with us some day.”

The Emeritus College Concert Band will perform Saturday, February 8 at noon at the Broad Stage on Santa Monica College campus. Admission is free.

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