St. John's River City Band Looks Ahead to Silver Anniversary

The St. Johns River City Band is a cultural gem in the city of Jacksonville, Florida. This non-profit, community-based Band will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2009. The talented wind, brass, and rhythm musicians feature American genres including jazz, swing, brass band, Dixieland, and other variations. They have performed with some of the best jazz performers in the country and the River City Band will be providing back-up for John Pizzarelli at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival scheduled for April 12-13, 2008.

The year was 1984 and Jacksonville was beginning to emerge from its image as a small southern town on the way to Miami and Orlando. That year, real estate mogul Ira Koger and former Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra conductor/music director Willis Page, created the community's St. Johns River City Band.

The brass band originated during the Industrial Revolution. Amateur brass bands were the mainstay of middle-class life in English-speaking countries. The traditional brass band has 25 musicians - 10 coronets, one flugelhorn, three horns, two baritones, three trombones, two euphoniums, four tubas and two percussionists. This enables the ensemble to perform a wide and varied repertoire of music. Today, there are only a handful of professional brass bands in the United States.

In the 1980's and 1990's, the St. Johns River City Band performed free concerts at Metropolitan Park and other venues in Jacksonville, including the Florida Theater and Friendship Park. Most notably, the River City Band was live at Carnegie Hall with Chet Atkins in 1987. It was a stellar moment for this young organization. Other great performers that the River City Band has accompanied include: Della Reese, Diane Schuur, Dizzy Gillespie, Doc Severinsen, Branford Marsalis, Al Hirt, Dave Brubeck, Lionel Hampton, Toni Tenille, Floyd Cramer, Jack Sheldon, Buddy DeFranco, The Manhattan Transfer, Arturo Sandoval, and Ernie Watts. On April 12th, the River City Band will be providing back-up for John Pizzarelli at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival.

Over the years, the River City Band has developed various ensembles that perform swing and hits of the '40s and '50s, a Dixieland group, a brass quintet, and other combinations that appeal to a wide audience. The Band has performed at annual events like the Mayors Old Buddies, the Gator Bowl parties, and the Jazz Festival. In addition to public events, the River City Band has entertained at many private events and parties. There has been a River City Youth Band as well as small ensembles that give workshops and programs in the Duval County Public Schools. Past music directors include: Willis Page, Sam Fricano, Bruce Silva, Don Zentz, Bill Prince, Paul Chiaravalle, and Mike Davis.

Community partners help the St. Johns River City Band meet our mission "keeping jazz and other American music alive through performance and education." Thanks to the City of Jacksonville, the Duval County Public Schools, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, the University of North Florida and Florida's Division of Cultural Affairs which has selected the St. Johns River City Band for the 2008-2010 Touring Roster. Once again, they will take their show on the road.

Currently under the musical direction of Dr. Marc Dickman, the St. Johns River City Band is a musical and cultural treasure of the First Coast community. The River City Band will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2009. Your support will keep us going for another 25 years.

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