A concert to remember

The Rappahannock High School Band, under the direction of Jason T. Guira, is already among the most accomplished in the state.

Comprised of 27 students in grades 8 through 12, the “Panther Band” is coming off quite a successful year, earning ratings of “Excellent” at the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association (VBODA) marching assessment in the fall and concert assessment in the spring.

Esteemed guest conductor Col. John Bourgeois and members of the Rappahannock High School Band take a bow last Wednesday. By Michael Del Grosso

In addition to its many performances and competitions in Virginia, the Panther Band traveled this school year to Orlando, where they marched down Main Street in Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom — what Guira called “a wonderful musical opportunity.”

Now you can add to the musical scores of these talented young band members the contributions of three nationally recognized musicians — all neighbors, fortune has it, living within only a few miles of the school.

The unparalleled confluence of the band and these renowned musicians resulted this past week in a concert that few will ever forget.

It was in January that Rappahannock-based Kid Pan Alley songwriters Paul Reisler and Cheryl Toth, as they have done for so many years around the country, wrote and composed songs with the young high school band members. That accomplished, Col. John Bourgeois, the former conductor of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, stepped in and arranged the music for the band.

Cheryl Toth (left) and Paul Reisler of Kid Pan Alley perform on stage with the high school musicians. By Michael Del Grosso

These amazing arrangements came to life last Wednesday with a most memorable performance, with Col. Bourgeois guest conducting.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for our high school band to perform under the direction of one of the foremost band directors in the world,” observed Reisler, who along with Toth similarly performed on stage with the Panthers Band.

Said Guira, who is completing his fifth year as the high school’s band director: “This was a fantastic musical opportunity for my students to do something different and work with the world-renowned Col. John Bourgeois. Thank you Kid Pan Alley.”

The unique collaboration that culminated with the concert received support from the Kortlandt Fund of the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation and RAAC’s Claudia Mitchell Fund.

In addition to the high schoolers’ experiences with Kid Pan Alley and Col. Bourgeois, the rising 7th-grade class also joined the Panther Band on stage on Wednesday, not only to make rare music but get a taste of the high school band experience.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, July 1, John Bourgeois’ American Festival Concert, featuring the Bourgeois Concert Band, returns to historic Avon Hall in the town of Washington for a one-of-a-kind old-fashioned salute to America. This outdoor concert begins at 5 p.m.; estate grounds open at 3. Bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnic baskets and enjoy the beautiful setting. There will be special activities for children.

About John McCaslin 469 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.