In 2002, Roger Schneider, member and co-founder of the East Winds Symphonic Band, was honored as a recipient of the WQED-FM/Dominion Volunteer In The Arts (VITA) award. The monetary portion of the award was designated by Roger and the East Winds to partially fund a festival at which community bands from the area could come together to share musicianship and camaraderie. Additionally, it was hoped that such a festival would spotlight amateur bands in the Pittsburgh region to the community.
In the fall of 2002, a committee was formed to begin the planning process. It was decided that the inaugural festival was to be held in 2004, and it was hoped to have bands from all four of the compass points around Pittsburgh. Over the next year, a greater committee was formed involving conductors and members of four area bands – the East Winds Symphonic Band, the North Surburban Symphonic Band, the West Hills Symphonic Band and Community Band South. This geographically diverse group of people, brought together by their love of community bands, worked together to plan to present the first festival.
The first festival was held on April 4, 2004 at the Upper St. Clair Theatre located at Upper St. Clair High School. The afternoon began with a trumpet fanfare written by Jim Rosetti for the occasion. Then each of the four bands performed for approximately 20 minutes each. The afternoon performance culminated with a special performance of all four groups taking the stage together (nearly 210 musicians). Max Gonano, Director of Bands at California University of Pennsylvania, conducted the mass group. Of the event, Roger Schneider said, “Stupendous! I think that’s the best word to describe our band festival.”
The second festival was held April 10, 2005, again at the wonderful Upper St. Clair Theatre. The weather outside was warm and sunny, and the emotion in the hall was equally festive. The event was a reunion of the East Winds Symphonic Band, the North Surburban Symphonic Band, the West Hills Symphonic Band, and Community Band South. The afternoon of performance climaxed with a group performance of nearly 225 musicians, conducted by Dr. Edwin P. Arnold, Director of Bands at Grove City College.
The third annual festival was held on April 9, 2006. Again, four bands gathered at Upper St. Clair Theatre to delight audiences. At the end of the afternoon, Paul Gerlach, Director of the Kiltie Band at Carnegie Mellon, conducted over 280 musicians from Community Band South, the West Hills Symphonic Band, the Harmony Zelienople Community Band, and the East Winds Symphonic Band.
The fourth annual festival was held on May 6, 2007. Five bands presented concerts that afternoon. North Suburban Symphonic Band, West Hills Symphonic Band, Community Band South, and the East Winds Symphonic Band all returned to the Upper St Clair Theatre stage and welcomed the Somerset County Community Band to the Festival. Community Band South premiered a work they commissioned by Philip Sparke entitled “Music For Life.” The Somerset County Community Band also performed a work they had previously commissioned entitled “Flight of Valor” by James Swearingen written to honor the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93. A finale to the afternoon saw members of the trombone sections of the bands join the East Winds Symphonic Band for Lassus Trombone. This was followed by the piccolo players from the bands joining the stage for The Stars and Stripes Forever.
The fifth annual festival saw some changes. It was held on a Saturday for the first time on May 3, 2008. Again, four bands took to the stage at Upper St. Clair Theatre. The Blairsville Community Concert Band was new to the festival and Community Band South, West Hills Symphonic Band, and the East Winds Symphonic Band returned. There was also a new band that formed for the occasion of the festival. Just over 60 musicians met for the first time as an ensemble on Saturday morning under the baton of Max Gonano, Director of Bands at California University of Pennsylvania. This ensemble was the first ever Festival Band. The musicians were all members of community bands throughout western Pennsylvania representing 22 Community Bands.
Continuing with changes made in 2008, the sixth annual festival on May 2, 2009, saw the return on the Festival Band under the direction of Elisabeth Heath Charles, Director of Bands at Robert Morris University and Conductor of the Butler County Symphony. The other bands to take the stage at Upper St. Clair Theatre that day were the West Hills Symphonic Band, Community Band South, and the East Winds Symphonic Band. The East Winds Symphonic Band was presented with the Sudler Silver Scroll from John Philip Sousa Foundation representative Gerald Guilbeaux. The Festival Band grew in size to just over 70 musicians representing 36 community bands from western Pennsylvania and eastern OH.
2010 was another successful year. The festival welcomed the Youngstown Area Community Concert Band to the stage for the first time. The Festival Band was conducted by Denis Colwell.
Past Conductors of the Festival Band
|Max Gonano||Elisabeth Heath Charles|
|Dennis Colwell||Paul Gerlach|
|James Gourlay||Sam Hazo|