What are you doing at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, July 1? If you haven’t made plans yet, we would love to see you at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall for a very special concert: “An American Celebration: In Honor of Our Servicemen and Women.” This performance, co-sponsored by Soldiers & Sailors and free for anyone to attend, will be a fun, interactive event that the whole family can enjoy to kick off the Fourth of July weekend.
Last year, audience members raved about the experience of attending “Salute to Veterans,” our first annual concert celebrating active and retired servicemen and women. They particularly appreciated how the program honored the service of those in attendance by inviting select veterans to speak and the audience to participate in the performance through a color guard and sing-alongs.
“An American Celebration” will similarly feature a color guard, invite veterans to share their stories onstage, and include opportunities for audience participation, such as sing-alongs to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “America the Beautiful,” and the “Armed Forces Medley,” during which audience members can stand and be recognized for their service. The conductor, Andrés Franco, will also invite the audience to clap to the rhythm of “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Featuring active and retired servicemen and women on the program is not just popular with audiences; it is also one of our favorite aspects of these performances. As the PSO’s Senior Vice President of Education & Strategic Implementation, Suzanne Perrino, recently told me, “We really like having veterans and others in the military participate because we want to engage our audience members and recognize their accomplishments on the same level as those of the musicians playing on stage. We want to honor individuals for their service and what they gave to their country.”
In addition to recognizing those who have served and protected our nation over the years, we hope to bring the audience and performers together by featuring PSO musicians as soloists and asking them to talk about their links to the military, as when Principal Oboe Cindy DeAlmeida spoke about her brother’s service last year. This July, you can look forward to hearing PSO soloists like Jim Nova, who will perform a trombone arrangement of the 1930s ballad “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.”
Of course, we will also build connections through music by playing patriotic and popular pieces recognizable to those who might be seeing the orchestra for the first time, in addition to sharing classical music the audience might hear at Heinz Hall. The program will shine a spotlight on American composers with selections such as Bernstein’s Overture to West Side Story, a Duke Ellington medley, John Williams’ music from the movie Lincoln, and two pieces by Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man and Letter from Home, which the American Broadcasting System invited the composer to write for American troops during World War II. With this mix of music, as well as the speaking interspersed throughout the program, expect a celebratory and uplifting evening!
We can’t wait to continue the tradition of hosting summer concerts that honor our active and retired servicemen and women this July, and we are also proud to announce that that this is just one facet of a new initiative. In addition to having annual concerts at Soldiers & Sailors and continuing to offer Music and Wellness sessions at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, we intend to create a ticket discount program providing more affordable access to those who have served in the military and would like to attend performances at Heinz Hall. Through this initiative, we hope to work toward achieving our strategic plan themes of breaking down walls and bringing people together, and we look forward to getting to know many more members of our community.
Stay tuned for more details and join us as we kick off this initiative with “An American Celebration: In Honor of Our Servicemen and Women.” It costs nothing to attend the concert, but registration is required. Visit pittsburghsymphony.org/veterans to learn more about the performance and register today. See you there on July 1!