Young musicians of the Phil Ramone Orchestra for Children, 69 boys and girls, ages 7 to 12, played with a brass quintet from The West Point Military Academy. The event took place at the Greater New York Division’s Harlem Temple Corps.
The quintet, musicians from the renowned West Point Band, delivered a first–rate, 30–minute performance. The band is the United States Army’s oldest musical organization. Staff Sgt. Bill Owens, trumpet; Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Economy, trumpet; Staff Sgt. Drew Mangus, French horn; Staff Sgt. Alaina Alster, trombone; and Staff Sgt. Rachel Hertzberg, tuba, comprised the quintet.
The offer to visit Harlem Temple came from Staff Sgt. Alaina Alster, a former music instructor for the children’s orchestra and a member of the quintet. She said, “I saw how hard these youngsters work to learn their instruments and I thought, What an opportunity to provide them with a great musical performance and to let them know that this is a specific job in the United States military and what it takes to become a member.”
Envoy Kenneth Burton, director of the Orchestra, said, “In addition to the entertainment factor, the visit from the quintet gives our youngsters an excellent opportunity to bond with people in the military and to hear about the life of a musician in military service.”
The quintet played in the Temple’s community center on Wednesday, November 4, of last year. As many as 100 children attended the performance along with members of the Harlem Temple Corps’ staff. After the program, the quintet conducted classes in separate areas of the center and with various sections of the orchestra.
Also last year in December, the orchestra received a prestigious interchurch community service award for its outstanding work with children.
On February 10 of this year, a woodwind quintet from West Point performed for the students and conducted master classes.
Although students graduate and move on to high school, some of them maintain their membership in the orchestra. After class, they travel back to practice at one of the orchestra’s two rehearsal sites. “The oldest student in the orchestra graduated from PS 206 middle school and now attends Fashion Industries High School,” said Burton. “However, after school, she returns to the program two days a week.”
Burton, who has a long and colorful history as a bandmaster at Harlem Temple, said, “I am excited for the potential this 2016 season holds!”
Phil Ramone’s legacy
In November 2011, The Salvation Army launched the Phil Ramone Orchestra for Children, the result of Ramone’s lifelong dream to touch the lives of less fortunate children and to change communities by giving such children access to music education.
On March 30, 2013, the multiple Grammy award–winning music producer passed away. He was most noted for being a record producer, recording artists such as Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Carly Simon, James Taylor, and many more.
Ramone, a child prodigy in music, studied violin at the famous Juilliard School in Manhattan. He was also deeply interested in and gifted at using the latest music production technology. In addition to winning 14 Grammy awards and 33 nominations, Ramone was the recipient of a technical Grammy for his many contributions to the science and art of recording.
by Warren L. Maye