The tinkling of instruments softens. A clarinet sets the intonation. The audience hushes as the silver-haired conductor, Les Lehr, enters. He commands an elegant presence in the Crowne Plaza ballroom, where the Sacramento Symphonic Winds is about to perform. Soon the audience will be taken on a musical journey crafted by Lehr and played out by the volunteer winds and percussion band.
Lehr, who spent 40 years teaching music in schools, has been the musical director and conductor for this band for 15 years. Its purpose is to give people a place to play their instruments and to bring high-quality music to the community. They also support area high school music programs by playing with students and repairing instruments.
"Music is a passion for all of these people," Lehr says. "Music has enriched their lives beyond measure."
The Sacramento Symphonic Winds emphasizes classic music, however they also embrace more modern styles. The January 17th concert included a symphony from "The Lord of the Rings" and "Abbey Road: A Symphonic Portrait," by Ira Hearshen which is a collection of songs by the Beatles. The audience gave a standing ovation to the classic and widely recognized "Fantaisie Brillante sur des airs de Carmen" which showcased the sweet beautiful music of local flutist, Marquette Kuper.
A small fee is charged to attend the concerts which helps cover their expenses. The band wants to encourage children to attend so they make admittance free for them. "The evidence of what music does for children and brain development is just immense," says Lehr.
Every Tuesday the band members meet to practice at Del Campo High School. They come from every walk of life, Lehr says, including students, housewives, doctors, attorneys and engineers. Fifty-eight members played to in today's concert.
Lehr is the current vice president of the Sacramento Valley Sympohnic Band Association and has been involved with the organization since 1983. To his knowledge it is the largest oranization of its kind in the United States. The association has 8 member bands, including Sacramento Symphonic Winds. Recently the Sacramento Symphonic Winds was selected to play for the Association of Concert Bands convention, which will take place in April in San Ramon. More than 25 bands applied and they were one of eight that were chosen.
To learn more about the Sacramento Valley Symphonic Band Association visit http://www.svsba.org/
Do you know someone who has dedicated themselves tirelessly to a cause? Please email your suggestions for the I Care column to Autumn Payne at email@example.com.