Las Vegas Sun

August 29, 2014

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TAKE FIVE: National Community Band

When: 3:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: UNLV's Judy Bayley Theatre

Admission: Free; 895-2787

In living rooms across the United States, select musicians are boning up on Sousa.

They'll converge on Las Vegas on Friday, rehearse aggressively for three days and give a rousing Sousa concert on Sunday. Then, they'll pack up their horns and march back home.

This dedicated lot, known as the National Community Band 2006, takes its Sousa seriously. The free concert will replicate a performance that the patriotic bandleader would have given Northern Nevadans between 1896 and 1916 - when Sousa and his men stopped in our boomtowns six times during their cross-country train travels.

"There's not a state in the union that he didn't play in. And this is good entertainment from a different era," says Robert E. Foster, vice president of the John Philip Sousa Foundation and former music professor at the University of Kansas, who will conduct the more-than-70-piece band. "When things are crazy like today, we need to take the time to look back to when America was more innocent, more naive."

Sousa concerts "bring us back to a time when there was no television. Radio was in its infancy. No computers. No iPods," Gerald Guilbeaux, chairman of the National Community Band, says as his cell phone rings out a rendition of "The Stars and Stripes Forever" in the background. "People got together and knew their community."

The man

John Philip Sousa was a classically trained musician whose primary instrument was a violin. He played in theater orchestras as a violinist before taking a position with the United States Marine Band. He's most famous for his 136 marches, but Sousa also wrote serious concert works, suites, dances, novels, short stories and musicals.

Elvis, Beatles, Sousa?

The band leader was the star of his time. Guilbeaux says Sousa was the Elvis Presley of his time. In his heyday, Foster says, Sousa was as popular as the Beatles were in theirs.

Sousalike

Foster will dress like Sousa and affect his mannerisms. The conductor of the National Community Band says he owns a copy of every movie and every newsreel of Sousa. "I've watched him walk. I've watched him conduct. I will emulate him as best I can."

The breakdown

The National Community Band lineup performs every other year, and its volunteer lineup changes. The 2006 version consists of 12 flutes, two oboes, two bassoons, 16 clarinets, three bass clarinets, four alto saxophones, two tenor saxophones, a baritone sax, eight trumpets, six French horns, six trombones, four euphoniums and five percussionists.

The soloist

Steve Leisring, trumpet professor at the University of Kansas, will play in the style of Sousa's cornet soloist, Herbert L. Clarke. He will play a gold-plated cornet that is more than 100 years old.

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