On Wednesday, July 24, at 8 p.m. the Kokomo Park Band will present its free “The Great American Songbook” concert in Highland Park sponsored by McGavic Outdoor Power.
KPB’s Artistic Director Professor Jay Gephart, director of bands at Purdue University, will conduct. The event will feature saxophonist Neil Broeker, vocalists Sally Duke, Jana Gephart, and Cherresa Lawson, plus the Kokomo Men of Note Barbershop Chorus.
“The ‘Great American Songbook’ is the canon of the most important and influential American popular songs and jazz standards from the early 20th century that have stood the test of time in their life and legacy.
Often referred to as American Standards, the songs published during the Golden Age of this genre include those popular and enduring tunes from the 1920s to the 1950s that were created for Broadway theatre, musical theatre, and Hollywood musical film,” according to the Great American Songbook Foundation with its headquarters at the Center for Performing Arts in Carmel, Ind.
Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” from the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” will be performed by saxophonist Neil Broeker. A Kokomo-native, Broeker began taking piano lessons in third grade, then saxophone lessons in sixth grade from Larry Kirkman, and clarinet and flute lessons in high school. While a student at Haworth High School, along with playing in concert, jazz, and marching band, he taught sax and clarinet lessons and formed his own dance band.
During his senior year he won the Kokomo Symphony Concerto competition and performed with the Kokomo Symphony Orchestra. In 1986, he graduated from the Indiana University School of Music with a Bachelors of Music in Woodwind Studies. While there, he studied privately with world renowned classical saxophonist Dr. Eugene Rousseau and also was able to study privately with and spend three years in the big band of esteemed jazz educator David Baker.
His professional career spans over 29 years and includes a wide range of settings from amusement parks, cruise ships, theaters, studios, PBS specials, big bands, and Beef and Boards Dinner Theater to touring internationally with Andy Williams. Broeker leads the KPB saxophone section sitting in the “Charlie Manning Memorial Principal Saxophone Chair.”
George Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” and “I Got Plenty of Nuttin’” will be sung by Cherresa Lawson, director of choral music at Kokomo High School. Lawson was featured on the KPB Big Band Concert on July 10.
“Star Dust” by Hoagy Carmichael and Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” will feature Sally Duke who is the Generations Travel Club officer at Community First Bank. She was active in music at Eastern High School and has performed with Greentown’s Music at the Fountain, Kokomo Civic Theater, Lamplighter Christian Dinner Theater in Tipton, Ole Olsen Theater in Peru, and for numerous church-related events.
On each Travel Club group trip, Duke takes the time to sing the hymn "How Great Thou Art" at some awe-inspiring spot. She has sung in a cave in New Zealand, a castle in Ireland, at the rim of the Grand Canyon, in the National Redwood Forest, and on famous stages such as the Hollywood Bowl.
“Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz” will be sung by Jana Gephart. She is a graduate of Bob Jones University where she majored in special education and taught sixth grade for nine years at Faith Christian School of Lafayette. Jana performs regularly in the Lafayette Master Chorale.
The band also will perform “Don’t Fence Me In” and “You’re the Top” by Cole Porter and “Broadway Journey: 25 Years of Golden Classics” arranged by James Christensen.
The program will conclude with a medley “Great American Songbook” arranged by Charlie Rose and will be sung by the Kokomo Men of Note Barbershop Chorus. The four songs depict just a few of the different aspects of love: “When I Fall In Love” (by Edward Heyman and Victor Young) is about the anticipation of finding love; “Fly Me to the Moon” (by Bart Howard) is about the exhilaration of love; the complexity of love is expressed with “I Don’t Know Why I Love You Like I Do” (by Roy Turk and Fred Ahlert); and finally, the endurance of love is shown through “Always” by one of America’s greatest composers, Irving Berlin.
Concerts are produced in cooperation with American Legion Post #6, the Center Township Trustee, Community Foundation of Howard County, the Indiana Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tippecanoe Arts Federation, the Indiana Arts Commission with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Kokomo Parks Department.
Popcorn and drinks will be provided by the "Serving in Love Team” of Morning Star Church. Children are always welcome at KPB concerts and are provided coloring sheets and crayons each week. Members of Kokomo Civic Theater will assist with program distribution. In the event of rain, the event will move to the Kokomo High School Auditorium. Location changes are available via text alerts. To subscribe, text the message “@kpband” to the number 81010.
The majority of the band's funding depends on donations from individuals. Contributions should be sent to Kokomo Park Band; PO Box 6039; Kokomo, IN 46904-6039. More information can be found on Facebook and on the band's website: www.kokomoparkband.org.