By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Monday's Memorial Day ceremony at the DeGlopper Memorial will feature another contribution from the award-winning Grand Island High School Wind Ensemble.
Martin Allen, who has taught music in the Grand Island Central School District for 28 years, believes students have played at the town's Memorial Day event since the music program's inception.
"And it's one of my favorite things to do," Allen said.
"It's a wonderful ceremony. I think the town does a great job with the ceremony and I think it's a great educational opportunity to educate students on what Memorial Day is and making sure that we are honoring the people that made the sacrifice that they did for us. I think it's just a wonderful experience for kids," Allen said.
Recreation Director Joe Menter, who puts the ceremony together, is himself an alumnus of the Wind Ensemble, playing tenor sax. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. at the DeGlopper Memorial, located at the intersection of Grand Island Boulevard and Baseline Road (near Adrian's Custard and Beef).
Memorial Day is more than a concert for students and serves also as a valuable teachable moment.
"It really is an opportunity for them to think of the holiday as something other than vacation, that there are concrete actions you can take to remember or memorialize," Allen said Tuesday. Feedback from veterans has been overwhelmingly positive through the years.
Allen added: "It's a funny thing. This morning in rehearsal, I said to them, 'This is backwards because they're going to all walk up to you afterwards and say, 'Thank you for being here and playing.' And it's the opposite. You need to shake their hand and thank them.' "
This year, the Wind Ensemble will play a piece called "Esprit de Corps," a tribute to the Marine Corps, "American the Beautiful" and "The Star-Spangled Banner." Eric Albrecht and Max VeRost will play taps.
The Wind Ensemble will also play the traditional Armed Forces Salute honoring all five branches of the military. Veterans of each branch of the service stand when their service's song is played. One year, a Navy veteran joked that the Wind Ensemble's performance of the Armed Forces Salute was so inspiring it made him "want to re-up."
Preparing for the concert requires a time commitment for all involved, with about two weeks of rehearsals, and students give up part of their holiday to perform.
"There's families driving back from camping trips early to be here," Allen said. "It's a big commitment for the kids, but I think it's important."