In a poignant melding of music, patriotism, and a heartfelt commitment to veterans’ well-being, the Northwinds Symphonic Band is preparing for its annual Veterans Day performance, titled “Let Freedom Ring: A Tribute to Our Veterans.” Band director Helen Bauer, despite recovering from a recent accident, expressed her excitement about the upcoming concert during an interview.
The Northwinds Symphonic Band, comprising over 70 members, including current and retired music teachers, recent university graduates, and exceptionally talented young musicians, has become a musical powerhouse since its inception in 2007. Their annual Veterans Day concert has evolved into a cherished tradition, drawing audiences from across Nassau County.
For Michael Palczewski, a trumpeter in the band from Oyster Bay, the Veterans Day concert is a chance to honor local veterans, but also to think about the former servicemen in his own life. Palczewski, who plays in the band with his brother Nicholas, added that in his nine years playing the concert with the band he often thinks of his uncle, who is an active member of the AMVETS, and his grandfather, who served in the Coast Guard.
“It means a lot for me to contribute back to the veteran community with something that I’m good at and that’s music,” Palczewski said. “When we play the Coast Guard anthem I always think of my grandfather. So that’s one of my favorite moments every year.”
This year’s program promises a diverse and moving selection of pieces, ranging from the iconic “Star-Spangled Banner” to John Williams’ poignant “Hymn to the Fallen” from Saving Private Ryan. The repertoire aims to honor veterans and their sacrifices, with a special focus on themes related to the armed forces.
“We’re celebrating our veterans,” Bauer said. “We will be honoring all of the people in the audience who have served or had family members who served in the armed forces.”
The band’s annual concert has also become a platform to address the critical issue of veteran suicide. Fred Nielsen, vice president and treasurer of Suicide Awareness & Remembrance Flag, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness about veteran suicide, shed light on the band’s evolving partnership with SAR since last year. Nielsen emphasized the importance of incorporating elements that actively include veterans in the concert’s format.
The collaboration with SAR led to significant additions to the concert, such as a color ceremony and presentations addressing the issue of veteran suicide. Last year, the concert featured a commissioned piece by composer Coral Strohman, dedicated to veterans who died by suicide. This year, the band plans to present an SAR flag to a family member who lost a relative to suicide during the Vietnam War era.
Nielsen highlighted the unique healing power of music, describing it as a “magic” that touches the emotional place where veterans carry their private pain. Music has the capacity to safely touch that pain, providing a therapeutic outlet for veterans who may be struggling with mental health issues.
“Music allows us to touch that pain safely without losing our grip, without losing our balance,” Nielsen said. “It helps give us strength and encourages us to go on for another step, another day, another choice.”
The collaborative effort between the Northwinds Symphonic Band and SAR is not only a musical endeavor but a testament to the strength of the veteran community. The concert serves as a platform for veterans to share their stories, fostering a sense of camaraderie and support within the community.
As the band prepares to take the stage at the Wunsch Arts Center in Glen Cove on Veterans Day, the performance promises to be more than a musical event. Nielsen said it is a powerful expression of gratitude, remembrance, and healing for veterans and their families.