Last night, the annual Pride and Patriotism event was held in Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall. I say “event” because this was more than a concert. It was a joint endeavor of youthful musicians, visual artists, and writers, and their teachers to honor our veterans.
The Southwest Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra led by Dr. David Cole played a nicely chosen program. The music included swing music from the World War II era, a Revolutionary War medley by the orchestra’s brass section, and an arrangement of “Over There,” representative of World War I. The stirring vocals came from Dr. Douglas Renfroe, a local choral director and former soloist with the US Navy Band Sea Chanters.
The orchestra’s string players got their chance to shine too. Concertmaster Sydney Rubinstein and Faye Thomas played “Amazing Grace” unaccompanied at the conclusion of the explanation of the Missing Man Table. The entire string section laid a melancholy background as Todd Betz, the Southwest Florida Symphony’s Education Director and percussionist narrated “Ashokan Farewell” from the PBS Civil War series.
Master Sergeant David Haglund, trumpeter with “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, was the guest instrumental soloist. He played Taps after the “Farewell” and later dazzled in “Trumpet Concerto in A flat Major” by Alexander Arutiunian.
Interspersed with the music selections, medals were awarded by local veterans to students from kindergarten all the way through high school for drawing, painting, collage, poetry, digital photography, and mini-documentary. The first, second, and third place winners in each category proudly walked across the stage to receive their prizes, accompanied by their respective teachers. It is heartwarming to think that throughout the entire county, students and teachers were thinking about the topics of “Red, White and Blue,” “Our Flag,” “Honoring Veteran Heroes,” “Freedom is not Free,” and “Wreaths Across America.” It is even more heartwarming to know that they were all exercising their creativity. The arts are alive and well in our school system.