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The Hills are Alive ... 

Steve Blanchard takes great pride in the expanse of quality work Indiana composers have put in over our state's 197-year history, and he wholeheartedly hopes to spread this appreciation through the Indianapolis Symphonic Band's upcoming Hoosier Composers' Night Concert at Fort Harrison State Park.

This Saturday, the ensemble, which unites volunteer players of all ages, backgrounds and cultures, will perform as a part of the historic Northeastside park's Music on the Hill series, showcasing a variety of works that were composed throughout Indiana's existence. From Broadway numbers to selections by popular composers such as Hoagy Carmichael and Cole Porter, the performance will consist entirely of works by Hoosier-born songsmiths.

Blanchard, who serves as the President on the non-profit music corporation's Board of Directors and Management, believes it is important for local audiences to get a taste of the state's wide-ranging music catalogue, whether it's work from contemporary composers or iconic innovators of yesteryear.

"We have a link to the past, and that includes composers going way back, over a century or a century-and-a-half, to contemporary composers who are still writing for large ensembles like ours," he says.

The Indianapolis Symphonic Band entertains with an outdoor concert at Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park. - SANDI PERLMAN
  • Sandi Perlman
  • The Indianapolis Symphonic Band entertains with an outdoor concert at Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park.

The Indianapolis Symphonic Band's historical embrace ties well into their choice of venue for Saturday's show. Previously the location of Fort Benjamin Harrison, a military base that was mostly active during WWI and WWII, the state park still takes much pride in its historical background, according to Park Naturalist Jeff Cummings.

"Soldiers did not march to string instruments, and we don't do the traditional banjo/guitar music that you find at some of the other state parks, because soldiers did not march to guitars and fiddles," he explains. "We were a military site, in all seriousness, and we like symphonic wind music."

For this reason, the summer series consists of performances by either the Indianapolis Symphonic Band or its swingin' sibling (the Barton Rogers Big Band), which also pays homage to the social dances that would often be held on the military base during the World Wars.

"During a Fort day, especially during the second World War, they had many swing bands that came through Fort Harrison," Cummings says. "This was all part of the musical history of Fort Harrison."

The Hoosier Composers performance references the musical roots of Indiana and Fort Benjamin Harrison history with Cole Porter (left) and Hoagy Carmichael (right) on the program. Pictured center is the "Fort Ben" 1930 Civilian Military Training Corps Band. - COURTESY WIKIMEDIA/RODERICK A. HOSLER
  • Courtesy Wikimedia/Roderick A. Hosler
  • The Hoosier Composers performance references the musical roots of Indiana and Fort Benjamin Harrison history with Cole Porter (left) and Hoagy Carmichael (right) on the program. Pictured center is the "Fort Ben" 1930 Civilian Military Training Corps Band.

In return for performing to audiences throughout their year-round, season of free concerts, the ensemble gives its volunteer players a challenging performance outlet, whether they're retired or still in high school. Being able to provide youngsters with this opportunity is especially important to Blanchard.

"We have been around a long time, but part of our mission has always been to find young players and give them an opportunity to play in a high-performing ensemble," he says.

But ultimately, when he reflects on the nonprofit's desired impact on the community, Blanchard views the Indianapolis Symphonic Band's mission as a two-way street.

"We, first of all, want to provide a music for the community that helps to give them a fun evening, one where they hear all kinds of music ... also providing the outlet for musicians, both young and old, to keep their skills up," he says. "There's something relaxing to the soul of those who are musicians to play to a regular beat and to create harmonies together."

Outdoor concerts in summer are a highlight for audiences and the Indianapolis Symphonic Band, who can forego formal wear for casual attire. - SANDI PERLMAN
  • Sandi Perlman
  • Outdoor concerts in summer are a highlight for audiences and the Indianapolis Symphonic Band, who can forego formal wear for casual attire.

So as the ensemble serenades ears, new and old, at this historic park, Blanchard anticipates an enjoyable evening for everyone in attendance -- all in the name of Indiana's compositional cornucopia.

For more information on this Saturday's event, check out the Hoosier Composers' Night Concert information online.

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Seth Johnson

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