Members of the Brainerd High School Wind Symphony and Symphonic Bands have been busy preparing for the performance of a lifetime.
The Brainerd bands, conducted by Christopher Fogderud and Kelsi Wright, were selected to perform June 6 at the National Mall as part of the D-Day Memorial Wind Band Concert to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day battle. The two bands will combine with the Clay-Battelle Middle/High Concert Band from Blacksville, West Virginia and will be conducted by Colonel Arnold Gabriel, Conductor Emeritus of the United States Air Force Band.
The concert, conducted by Gabriel, a World War II veteran, will be part of an annual remembrance ceremony by the Friends of the World War II Memorial. A combat machine gunner with the United States Army's famed 29th Infantry Division in Europe during World War II, Gabriel landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He received two awards of the Bronze Star Medal, the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the French Croix de Guerre. Gabriel is one of the highest regarded wind band conductors in the United States, having received numerous honors throughout his 53-year career.
"Performing as a part of this important ceremony under the direction of such an inspirational conductor will be an exceptional experience for the Brainerd High School students," Wright stated in a news release. "To be able to pay tribute in such a unique way is so exciting and I feel honored that our kids have this opportunity."
To prepare for this performance, the 67 students participating have been spending extra time outside of class rehearsing as a combined group. Fogderud stated the group has prepared 15 pieces of music for this concert, which has been no small task given the full schedule of the band program during the spring. The bands recently presented their annual spring concerts, performed for the Brainerd Memorial Day parade and ceremony and will perform Friday for the BHS commencement ceremony.
"Preparing for this D-Day concert has been one of the most challenging and meaningful tasks that our program has undertaken," Fogderud stated. "It's been a privilege to get to work on this great American music for one of the great American band conductors, in commemoration of one of the greatest American moments. We're really looking forward to this performance."
While in Washington, D.C., the students will attend a concert of the United States Navy Band and will tour many of the national monuments and the Smithsonian Institution, including the newly opened African American Museum of History and Culture.
"Being together with my classmates and the community during this band tour is what I'm most looking forward to, " Will Just, a junior, stated.
"My hope is that our students return from tour with an expanded sense of perspective," Wright stated. "It will be incredible for the kids to get to see a part of the country that will be new to many of them, and I think that the experiences students will have on this tour will help to expand each of their perspectives on the world."