Burbank Community Band preps for annual concert Sat., Mar. 3

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Music from ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ ‘Les Misérables,’ ‘Camelot’ and more at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills

By Clint Lohr

At Robert E. Gross Park, the Burbank Community Band was recently having their weekly practice, just as they have since the early ‘80s.

According to the band’s website, they were originally called the Lockheed Concert Band. The property was owned by Lockheed Aircraft, which moved its operations to Palmdale in 1993. Eventually, Lockheed donated Gross Park to the City of Burbank.

‘Playing music keeps people healthier.’

–Conductor Paulette Westphal

Burbank Community Band is presenting a concert on Saturday, March 3, 6pm, in Liberty Hall at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. According to their program, the band will play “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the suite from Hamilton, selections from Grease, Cats, Harry Potter and much more. After a 15-minute intermission, there will play highlights from Fiddler on the Roof, Les Misérables, Camelot, “Hymn to the Fallen” and others.

The Band produces a concert annually there. “We are so grateful to Forest Lawn,” says Paulette Westphal, the band’s conductor. “They donate their Liberty Hall, their staff and their security personnel.”

Westphal became the band’s conductor in December of 2011. She says one member originally in the Lockheed band is John Sparks, 93, who is still going strong

At practice, the dozens of band members, many in their 70s and older, are packing up their instruments and stands, Westphal is going over music sheets with two clarinet players, Steve Lang and Alan Duncan. “It’s always lively here,” she says. “This building was the recreation hall for Lockheed employees. It’s amazing to see all these people in their 80s and 90s still trucking into band practice. The average age of the band member is around 76. Playing music keeps people healthier.”

She says some people who played instruments in their youth start up again after they retire, and that the band has gained five new members in the past year.

Every year they play at area schools. “It’s hard to get our foot in the doors at elementary schools,” Westphal explains. Once we do, they say, ‘Where have you been?’ The students listen to us, and the idea is to encourage them to start playing music. We’re starting to reach out to families.”

Westphal also stressed the band’s current need for a storage facility. “We need a truck trailer to store equipment and a place to keep it. We also need a grant writer,” she explained.

Westphal says they are always open to new members. “We want to keep this band going for another 75 years,” she says.

For further information visit BurbankBand.org or call (626) 703-4444. Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills is located at 6300 Forest Lawn Dr.


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