The bright lights and crowd engagement that often accompanies a band concert was on full display last Saturday, June 2, when the United States Coast Guard Band, under the direction of Lt. Commander Adam R. Williamson, entertained hundreds inside the Salem High School Auditorium. The entire 55-member ensemble graced the stage over a two-hour period, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The free concert was open to everyone, and some spectators – including quite a few Veterans – traveled from out of state to experience the show. Representative Morgan Griffith was among those in attendance.
“My job tonight is to tell you a little about the Coast Guard and its band. As you may know, the United States Coast Guard was founded in 1790,” said Griffith prior to the concert starting. “Alexander Hamilton is considered the father of the Coast Guard. He would be proud of what it has become today.”
Both featured soloists – Noel Marcana and Megan Weikleenget – added a unique flair to the concert. Noel earned a Master of Music degree in clarinet performance from the University of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music. Megan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance and music education from The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam.
Of the nine selections that were performed, “Millenium Canons” and “An American Elegy” were Steve Black’s two favorites. The Roanoke County native says he is in awe of individuals who can play multiple instruments at a high level.
“You could just see the natural ability on the stage,” he said. “It all came so effortlessly to them. Everyone did a great job. My wife said she was just as impressed as I was.”
To play her part in ensuring that the concert would be a success, Roanoke College Director of Community Programs Tanya Ridpath started organizing things several months ago. She and Janet Chisom met with band member Jeff Emerich in January to look at different venues throughout the Roanoke Valley. Within a few weeks, Salem High School was the chosen location.
“The band was so easy to work with. They provided us with everything we needed. I can honestly say that this was an easy event,” Ridpath said. “It is important to thank all military men and women for their service to our country, as well as their families for the sacrifices they make.”
Janet, whose brother Richard is a band member, agrees that a healthy community effort made the Coast Guard Band concert possible.
“Salem High School provided the perfect auditorium. John Wright, the school’s band director, made sure the building was open and set up the stage. He even coordinated the students who helped to greet and usher,” she said. “Jim Chisom from Wells Fargo Advisors partnered with the high school in making the auditorium available. Lorain Petersen, a Salem mom of a Coast Guard Academy graduate, put up fliers and helped to advertise. Many locals helped spread the word. Everyone played a part.”