Naples and Bonita concert bands open new seasons

Naples Concert Band

When: 2 p.m. on Sunday at Cambier Park Band Shell

Admission: Free (donations accepted)

Information: www.naplesconcertband.org

Bonita Springs Concert Band

When: 2 p.m. Oct. 25

Where: Riverside Park, 27300 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs

Admission: Free (donations accepted)

Information: www.bonitaspringsconcertband.com

It’s Year Two for community concert bands, and they plan to make it a big one.

The Naples and Bonita Springs concert bands start their seasons soon — this Sunday for Naples and Oct. 25 for Bonita.

Music director and conductor Harris Lanzel, who is in his second season as music director here, says Naples will open with an “eclectic” mix at its Cambier Park concert. Count on everything from marches and classical tunes to Community School of Naples violinist Adam Zhang playing Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and vocalist Jenny Bintliff performing Celine Dion’s hit “My Heart Will Go On.”

Bonita Springs is kicking off its second year of free concerts in Riverside Park. Led by Dennis Hill, former Edison College director of music, the band is working to expand its ranks and its number of concerts. Last year, the band played five concerts; this season it has planned eight.

“We had a very good response last year,” Hill said. “It seems very positive.”

Neapolitans support their concert band and turn out by the thousands each month to hear them play. Bonita residents are doing the same, Hill said, and not only in the audience. The band will have about 60 musicians at its peak this year, and Hill hopes to eventually grow to 80 members.

There was definitely a demand for a band in Bonita, he said.

“A lot of musicians kind of came out of the woodwork, so to speak,” Hill recalled. “We got calls from people saying, “Hey, I play the trumpet.’” As a baby band, it is still trying to raise donations to obtain music arrangements, music stands and some of the larger percussion instruments — timpani, chimes and xylophone.

Naples’ concert band has more than 80 members, and the band is playing its 38th season this year. It’s Lanzel’s second season to lead the band as director, although he’s not new. He was the band’s associate conductor for six years.

The promotion suits him.

“I’m having a ball,” Lanzel said. “We have a very talented group of volunteers, a whole mixture of players from professional players to part-time.”

That includes musicians who are former attorneys, past corporate presidents and about 15 retired band directors. Lanzel is also the music director and conductor of the 16-member Music Makers Big Band, which means that in total, Lanzel leads more than 100 musicians. He also plays trumpet with the Paradise Brass Quintet and assists the middle school student band at St. Ann Catholic School several afternoons a week.

For 31 years, Lanzel served as the director of bands at Eisenhower High School in Russell, Pa. Like Lanzel, Bonita Springs’ Hill is also a veteran director, picking up the baton more than 40 years ago.

Conducting adults poses different challenges than teaching teens, Lanzel says, but his goal — to coax the most out of the musicians he’s conducting — is the same as it was in his classroom days.

“You have to be a combination of a taskmaster when needed, a cheerleader when needed, you have to give good advice,” he said. “My job is to find that common goal and direct all the different talents and achieve that common goal.”

It helps that the members of the Naples Concert Band have a passion for their music, too, Lanzel said. Most have played for many years, sometimes since childhood, and are enjoying the opportunity to come together as a band.

Dwight Richardson, 77, learned to play the French horn in the seventh grade. He played with the United States Marine Band in South Korea from 1953 to 1955. Now, Richardson and his wife, a clarinetist, perform with both the Naples and the Bonita Springs concert bands.

“To sit right in the middle of an ensemble that’s making music is really one of the most satisfying things you can experience,” said Richardson, a Naples Park resident. “You’re playing your part, and everyone else is doing the same thing. When it comes together and you know your part of creating music, it’s one of the most wonderful feelings you can have.”

Richardson praised the leadership of both bands, as well as the strong relationship of the two bands.

“Harris has brought us to the highest level that we have been (in Naples),” Richardson said. “In Bonita Springs, we’re striving toward that.”

The bands have added more musical elements to their repertoires this season — especially soloists.

Bonita’s season opener will include an euphonium solo by one of the band’s members. Hill plans to feature a soloist in every concert performance, and many of them already perform in the band and live locally.

“People enjoy that and it also gives us a chance to showcase some of the talent,” he said.

Naples’ season includes an array of soloists:

* A harmonica player who also performs with the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra.

* A pianist to play George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

* A patriotic concert in November. It will include narration by Peter Thomas and a performance by the vocal ensemble HeartSong.

Expect musical ensembles, too: In January, a xylophone trio is slated to perform. In December, the Moorings Ringers Handbell Choir will take the stage.

“A lot of variety usually works really well,” Lanzel said of the band’s season line-up. “There’s something for everyone.”

In the season opener Sunday, the concert band will start off energetically with a piece called “Bayou Breakdown,” which Lanzel called “just a neat, lively tune that everybody in the band gets a chance to show off their technical prowess.”

“This year, we’re trying to highlight somebody in every concert,” Lanzel said.

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