Bringing music and friendship to the Sousa Bandshell
The Port Washington Summer Community Band has begun its weekly concerts at the John Philip Sousa Memorial Bandshell in Sunset Park. This July, the Port Washington Summer Community Band will perform every Friday night at 8 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public.
For the eleventh year in a row, the band is under the direction of Aaron Prindle. Prindle teaches Symphonic Band, Music Theory and Songwriting, Instrumental Lessons and is Co-Director of the Viking Band at the Port Washington schools.
The Port Washington Summer Community Band has been around for many years. Prindle shared that some form of community band has existed in Port since the 1930s. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Port Washington Summer Community Band rallied together for virtual performances. The band resumed in-person performances in June 2021 and has continued to thrive.
“[The band] is growing very strongly. The enrollment this year is higher than it has been in years past,” said Prindle.”We’ve got a good group of people that are willing to give their time and talents.”
The Port Washington School District supports the band, and initially, the community band was seen as an opportunity for high school musicians to play during the summer. While that is still the case, many members are adult community members.
“Some of them are recent high school graduates. Others have been playing for a long time, and now they’re in their sixties and seventies,” said Prindle. “They’re still playing their instrument, and it’s an opportunity for them to have a musical moment.”
This year, the band has about 50 members playing the instruments typically seen in a school concert band.
“We have woodwinds, that’s flutes, clarinets and saxophones. We have brass instruments, like trumpets, French horns, trombones, and tubas. And we have a percussion section,” said Prindle.
Each year, Prindle spends time planning out a theme for each concert the summer community band plays. This past Friday’s show on July 7 was themed “The Good Ole U.S.A,” where the band performed patriotic music in honor of the Fourth of July.
“On the 14th, it’s themed ‘Go Take a Hike!’ It’s music inspired by our national parks and music that comes to mind as you’re on a walk. The concert on the 21st is a play on words with a musical term. It’s called ‘Summer Band Con Moto.’ These are songs about different modes of transportation. We have songs inspired by buses, trains, planes, sailing boats,” explained Prindle. “And the final concert on the 28th is where we can honor the community. We have songs for our first responders, the Boy Scouts march, a song to honor the library and we will play an arrangement of Amazing Grace to honor our faith institutions.”
Considering this is a summer band, Prindle wants to ensure everyone has fun at rehearsals and performances. The band has practiced some music from classic soundtracks such as Star Wars and Harry Potter to keep things light. Prindle is a second-generation music teacher. His father has taught music in Washington state for about 40 years, and the two bond over their love for music. Prindle has even borrowed music from his father’s music library.
“We have about 45 different selections to prepare, and that is a remarkable amount of music,” said Prindle.
Typically, a school band prepares about three to five songs during the course of the fall semester and another three to five during the spring semester. But the Port Washington Summer Community Band does four different concerts within four weeks.
“It’s pretty remarkable, and it speaks to the level of musicians that join us,” said Prindle. “They take on the challenge of learning a large amount of music in a short time.”
In rehearsal, Prindle’s goal is to give the musicians a chance to play through each song at least once before the concert at the end of the week. Prindle describes each rehearsal as a moment of joy and community.
“I close each rehearsal with the phrase ‘I hope you’re having as much fun as I am.’ And they really are,” said Prindle. “It’s such a positive place where the musicians are thrilled to be there and see only friends that come back every year.”
The community band allows student musicians to continue practicing while off from school and gives adult musicians a great outlet to have fun and enjoy the arts.
“Those first few rehearsals are so gratifying to see. The musicians come together and have a moment to reconnect socially and musically, especially coming out of the pandemic,” said Prindle.
Community bands are popular all across Long Island, but Port’s community band stands out due to its longevity and popularity within the community. The Port Washington School District has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education for the ninth consecutive year.
“I find that music is a major part of the upbringing of the kids in the community,” said Prindle. “That music appreciation is echoed in families, and that is echoed in the community.”
The Port Washington Summer Community Band will be performing at the Sousa Bandshell in Sunset Park at 8 p.m. on July 14, July 21 and July 28.