June 26, 2014, BY Kathryn Kopchik

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Brilliant marches, magnificent overtures, and blazing solos are all on tap as the Penn Central Wind Band closes out the Union County Veterans Fourth of July Celebration with a Star-Spangled concert featuring the award-winning Penn Central Wind Band. The concert begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 2, in Lewisburg's Hufnagle Park. Rain location: Lewisburg Area High School Auditorium.  

William Kenny, the band's founder and conductor, says, "This will be our 16th annual Stars, Stripes, and Sousa concert. Top-flight musicians will be playing wonderfully historic and patriotic music in a picturesque park-all for an enthusiastic audience. It's a slice of Americana at its best."

Kenny says that Sousa's name is synonymous with bands, and with concerts in the park, but that Sousa's concerts included much more than marches. He also programmed arrangements of popular music of the day, opera overtures, and virtuosic vocal and instrumental solos. "Bands transmitted all the great music of the 19th and early 20th centuries. There were few orchestras, so town bands and the great touring bands, like Sousa's, served up live music for the enlightenment and toe-tapping entertainment of audiences all over the country."

As in Sousa's day, the program will be varied. Kenny is especially pleased to be featuring a violin soloist, just as Sousa often did. Kenny's daughter, Grace Kenny, will perform a fiery and passionate arrangement of gypsy airs, "Zigeunerweisen." Grace will be a senior at Lewisburg Area High School, where she is concertmaster of the school orchestra, tuba player in the band, and drum major for the marching band. She has been selected to perform with both the Pennsylvania All State Chorus and the All State Orchestra. "Grace was just a year old when we started doing these Sousa-style concerts," says Kenny. "I wonder if those early concerts somehow stuck with her." 

Production of the concert is a combined effort, with sponsorship coming from The Woodcock Foundation for the Appreciation of the Arts, The Lewisburg Arts Council, The Union County Veterans Fourth of July Committee, and Bucknell University.

The Penn Central Wind Band is sponsored by Bucknell as a service to the region. Its members come from some 20 towns and cities from central Pennsylvania. Most hold music degrees, and many are music teachers and professional performers.

The band is one of a few select ensembles that that have received the Sudler Silver Scroll, awarded by the John Philip Sousa Foundation recognizing community and adult concert bands of outstanding musical excellence. Other honors include invitations to perform for the conference of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, and the national convention of the Association of Concert Bands. Kenny is professor of music and chair of the Department of Music at Bucknell University.