BEMIDJI -- The first song the Bemidji Area Community Band will perform at its first concert in 22 months will be quite appropriate.

Conductor Scott Guidry will lift his baton to begin George Gershwin’s timeless “Strike Up The Band” at 7 p.m. on Sunday, June 20, on the lawn south of Bemidji State University’s Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex.

That piece will follow the national anthem, of course. Guidry expects about 40 members to open the four-concert season in the traditional Father’s Day concert.

“Strike Up The Band” was a natural choice for Guidry since the BACB missed its entire 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think that’s making a statement that we’re back,” said Guidry, director of bands at BSU. “We’re down slightly in numbers, but as long as we’re together, it’s not about the numbers as much as the fact that we’re starting again. I couldn’t be happier. Everybody who has returned is just really thankful that we’re able to get together again. You never know how good you have it until you can’t do it.”

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Scott Guidry conducts Bemidji Area Community Band members as they rehearse on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, for their first concert of the season set for June 20. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Scott Guidry conducts Bemidji Area Community Band members as they rehearse on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, for their first concert of the season set for June 20. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Rehearsals began on June 9, and although some band members claimed they were out of practice, Guidry was impressed with their sound.

“I tried not to expect one thing or another,” he said. “There were a lot better things happening than I had figured. People said they were rusty, but it was not nearly as rusty as I was expecting.”

Kiki Schnackenberg, band member and president of the BACB board, said that the first rehearsal was like a reunion. Schnackenberg usually plays flute and piccolo, but will be in the percussion section for Sunday's concert.

Members of the Bemidji Area Community Band rehearse on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, for their first concert of the season set for June 20. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Members of the Bemidji Area Community Band rehearse on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, for their first concert of the season set for June 20. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

"It was kind of overwhelming stepping into the band room after not being able to play for so long," she said. "When the first notes were played my heart was just full."

Guidry is hoping the audience will appreciate the opportunity to listen to live music.

“Once Sunday the 20th rolls around we’ll see how people are feeling about it,” Guidry said. “That’s going to help us to gauge what to expect the rest of the summer. When we get one good concert under our belts, I think word will get out and hopefully we’ll build on it.”

Clarinet players rehearse during Bemidji Area Community Band practice on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Clarinet players rehearse during Bemidji Area Community Band practice on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

In addition to the Gershwin opener, the concert will include a John Phillip Sousa march and a medley of songs from James Bond movies, plus the American classic “Shenandoah.”

The band members will get a workout when they play Leroy Anderson’s “The Rakes of Mallow.” Anderson is known for lively pieces like “Bugler’s Holiday” and “The Typewriter.”

Guidry said “The Rakes of Mallow” gets faster as the song progresses. “Everybody’s hanging on for dear life, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. In case of inclement weather, the event will move indoors at Bangsberg. There is no cost to attend, but free-will donations will be accepted.

Additional concerts are scheduled for July 4, July 18 and Aug. 4, at the same time and place.