It’s like the symphony on a budget.

Well, not really. The Charlotte County Symphony Orchestra — which puts on amazing concerts — is mostly strings. And its music is, can I say a little more highbrow?

But there is another group of musicians in Charlotte County who put on quite a show of their own. They’re called the Charlotte County Concert Band, and they play six concerts a year at the Charlotte Performing Arts Center in Punta Gorda.

The concert band is mostly trumpets, clarinets and those types of instruments. Its members, who practice once a week, come from varied backgrounds. Many are former music instructors in our schools. Some are ex-military band members. Many played on college marching bands or even bands aboard cruise ships.

And, they come from all over. One bass clarinet player drives all the way from Brandon, Florida (that’s near Tampa). Some come from North Port and Venice and a couple from Fort Myers. Most, however, hail from Punta Gorda and Charlotte County.

“The symphony is the 900-pound gorilla and they get a lot of publicity,” said Jay Ward, a former member of the concert band who now volunteers to handle publicity. “But they charge $50 and for $15 you can come hear some really good music by our band.”

The concert band originally formed in 1974 when a group of local musicians got together to play and decided to make it a little more formal. The group has grown to about 80 musicians who more than filled up the stage at the Cultural Center, where they used to put on concerts. A couple years ago the band moved to CPAC to have more space and, so far, it’s worked out well.

“We’re selling out more than half the auditorium,” Ward said. The goal, of course, is to sell out the entire 900-seat venue.

The band is directed by Bob Miller, who also conducts a concert band in Venice and is an assistant conductor for the North Port Concert Band. Miller is a former music educator from Pennsylvania who is, according to Ward, a “very good musician himself.”

Each month, beginning in November and ending after the April event, the concert band puts on a show featuring various themes. November is usually patriotic music while December, naturally, is Christmas oriented. A planned concert for Jan. 18 will feature the William Tell Overture. A Feb. 9 concert is still being planned but will likely entertain the audience with Broadway tunes.

“We try to mix it up,” Ward said. “If we played all Glenn Miller, the younger crowd would not come but if we played pops all the time the older crowd may not come.”

Tickets for the concerts can be purchased online at CharlotteCountyConcertBand.com or you can pick up tickets at the box office before the show (they are a couple bucks more the day of the show, however). There is no reserve seating.

Much of the money from ticket sales go toward $500 college scholarships for music students at Lemon Bay, Charlotte and Port Charlotte high schools.

“There’s not a better way to listen to music than to listen to our band,” Ward said.

Pulitzer Prize winner John Hackworth is commentary editor of the Sun newspapers. You may contact him at jhackworth@sun-herald.com.

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