‘Smitty’s Aweigh’ Overture
for concert band
Commissioned by the Salisbury Community Band and dedicated to Dr. Charles F. Smith, to commemorate his retirement after nearly 40 years of service as Band Director.
Premiered July 31, 2011
In the spring of 2011, I was contacted by Pat Shaner, trumpet player and member of the Salisbury (MD) Community Band, to entertain the idea of writing a new work to celebrate the retirement of Dr. Charles F. Smith. The piece would be premiered on July 31, his final concert, and would be a surprise gift to him a week earlier, on July 24. Dr. Smith had been Band Director for 35 years, and a percussionist in the group for an additional 3 years while working on his doctoral degree.
Not knowing Dr. Smith personally, I still wanted to compose a celebratory piece that would have direct ties to his life and career with the band. A quick read of his biography on the band’s webpage led me to some inspiration.
The main theme of ‘Smitty’s Aweigh’ Overture stems from the Alma Mater of Dr. Smith’s undergraduate school, Southeastern Louisiana State College. The original tune is rather drawn out, but when transformed into an up-tempo march, it becomes quite jaunty indeed. The secondary theme comes from his graduate school, The Catholic University of America. Again, I simply sped up the original, and it provided for a nice contrasting and lyrical counterpoint to the first theme.
Sadly, I did not have space to include any reference to his doctoral school, the University of Maryland at College Park, but the whole work is sprinkled with hints to one of his most important connections, the US Navy. There are many quotes – sometimes obvious, sometimes not – from Anchors Aweigh, the fight song of the United States Naval Academy.
All in all, I thought that the best tribute to Dr. Smith – someone who has devoted almost 4 decades to the concert band – might be a work that would hopefully possess the qualities to become a future staple in the band repertoire. And so ‘Smitty’s Aweigh Overture (‘Smitty’ is a nickname from his wife), even with all of its symbolic references to Dr. Smith’s education and career, is written in a manner that combines many iconic sounds and styles, so as to be immediately both familiar and refreshing simultaneously.
Lastly, since Pat Shaner was responsible for this new work, I wanted to make sure there was a good trumpet part!
Jim Stephenson June 23, 2011