In the steps of Sousa

A campus-based wind ensemble wants to be a part of an American tradition throughout the year, starting with an Independence Day concert of patriotic compositions such as John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

The roughly 50-member Florida Wind Band will play a concert at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Temple Terrace Country Club. An hour later there will be a fireworks show and admission is free.

The band, one of the few non-military professional wind ensembles in America, is made up of brass, woodwind and percussion instruments, with members drawn from USF, the Florida Orchestra and the surrounding area.

John Carmichael, USF director of bands and conductor for the Florida Wind Band, said band members agreed to play for donations Saturday, but he envisions a different, more ambitious system of payment.

“We’re trying to move to a time when the players are paid a livable salary – where we’re doing a season of concert,” he said. “I see us having national auditions. I see us having a board, developing a foundation, securing funding and patronage.”

Carmichael said the versatility of school bands allows them to survive state budget cuts, even when chorus and orchestra programs are cut.

Though the Florida Wind Band is not funded by the state, its versatility still helps.

“(Bands) are perceived as having multiple functions: we can perform outside; we can perform inside; we can march; we can sit; we can perform in small groups, large groups, really large groups; we can wear uniforms or we can wear tuxedos,” Carmichael said.

Saturday’s show will be the band’s fourth. Its first concert was last summer at the Falk Theatre in Tampa.

Carmichael said about 300 people attended previous shows, but he expects
at least 1,000 attendees Saturday.

“If folks liked band in high school, they might hear something (at the concert) they enjoy a great deal,” he said.

Carmichael will dress as Sousa, the turn-of-the-century composer of patriotic marches.

He said he will don antique glasses and a red bandleader’s jacket, which is almost identical to the Sgt. Pepper’s-esque jacket Sousa wore in photographs from the era.

“This is the Clark Kent transformation – I put (the glasses) on and instantaneously I’m John Sousa,” Carmichael said.

Amy Collins, principal oboist and USF music professor, said she e-mailed her 25 students about the concert, and some said they would attend.

“I think it’s an excellent idea to have a professional wind ensemble in the area,” she said. “It’s a good idea for colleges and high schools to have an ensemble in the area to look up to.”

Ashley Huffman, a senior music education student, will also participate in the show. She has been a volunteer for the band since last fall. She said she makes sure everything falls into place, from setup to takedown.

“I’m going to be a music educator, so it’s a neat way to meet people in the field,” Huffman said.