The Sumter Community Concert Band’s 40th anniversary concert on May 1 will feature world-renowned composer Jay Bocook

For 40 years, the Sumter Community Concert Band has provided free concerts to the community to share their love and passion for music. To celebrate such a milestone, the band will be hosting a free anniversary concert that will feature some very special guests.

Founded in 1982, the Sumter Community Concert Band is a non-profit organization run by a board of directors elected from among the group. Teachers, farmers, pilots, nurses, pharmacists, students and more add up to 40 musicians from Sumter, Shaw Air Force Base and surrounding counties. The group debuted on November 14, 1982 at the Sumter Opera House before being renovated in 1985. Over the years the group has performed at Swan Lake Iris Gardens, Bishopville’s Opera House, the renovated Sumter Opera House and more Again.

To celebrate their tenure, world-renowned Florida-born composer Jay Bocook will be the concert’s guest conductor. According to his biography, Bocook graduated from Furman University in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in music and later earned his master’s degree in music from the University of Louisiana. He began composing and arranging in graduate school, where he wrote for Jenson Publications; served as band director at a high school in Travelers Rest, where he led the band to become the 1978 South Carolina AAA State Marching Band Champions; and was band director at Furman University from 1982 to 1989. He rose to fame when his compositions were featured at the 1984, 1988, 1996, and 2002 Olympics. He was inducted into the American Bandmasters Association, the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame and is a member of the South Carolina Band Directors Association Hall of Fame.

Alongside Bocook, former conductors from the orchestra will take the stage to conduct selected songs performed during their tenure.

Mark Fischer, the band’s first bandleader, will conduct the first song of the evening, “America the Beautiful.” He was bandleader from 1982 to 1984 and led the song at the band’s first concert.

Rick Mitchum, a member of the group since 1982, was delighted to find Fischer on stage.

“It’s really special for us that he’s coming back to lead,” Mitchum said on behalf of the band.

Along with Fischer, former bandleaders Joni Brown (1984 – 1988) will lead the unique, fresh song “Viper” and the simple yet thrilling melody “Fantasy on Yankee Doodle”; Randy Oswalt (1995 – 1997) will lead “Semper Fidelis”, the official march of the United States Marine Corps; and Brandon Vaughn (2003-2004) will conduct “His Honor March”, a fast-paced circus march to challenge all instruments.

The band will also perform several selected songs from previous shows in tribute to the community and some of its lush landmarks. Bocook will also create a composition written specifically for the concert band entitled “Spirit of Ostenaco”, acknowledging the friendship of the Cherokee chief and warrior Otacity Ostenaco and General Thomas Sumter.

Mitchum shared that the last 40 years of performing have been a “blessing”. Sometimes he struggled to manage his 10-hour day job with two hours of rehearsal and other daily responsibilities. However, the stressors of life were the least of his worries when he started playing music.

“When you play this music, everything else is pushed aside. It’s therapy when you go there for two hours and read this music. It’s all you think about, everything else is erased “, said Mitchum. “It’s therapy not just for us but for the people in the audience.”

The group allowed Mitchum to meet and befriend people he wouldn’t have despite being from the same town. Through his fellow musicians, young and old, and the diverse community of Sumter, he has learned that music has the ability to transcend many boundaries.

He spoke on behalf of the band thanking Sumter for their continued support and beaming at the pleasure it has been playing for their hometown for so many years.

The Sumter Community Concert Band’s 40th Anniversary Concert will begin at 3 p.m. May 1 at Patriot Hall, 135 Haynsworth St. Admission is free. A reception with light refreshments will follow the concert.