One of the ways Ferris State University seeks to honor those who have severed in the United States Armed Forces is through the FSU West Central Concert Band’s annual Veterans Day Concert, which Director Richard Scott Cohen describes as a big multi-media celebration with a lot of pageantry, including the concert itself, the Pledge of Allegiance, a Power-Point presentation, bagpipe music in the lobby and a collection for the FSU Military Support Group.
“When I started this concert 12 years ago, there weren’t that many veterans celebrations happening in town,” said Cohen. “In the last several years, there have been more and more, which is really nice, but at the time I created it, it was filling a pretty big void. The music is all picked either to celebrate the veterans and/or to commemorate one of the war periods in which we’ve had veterans serve. I believe it’s our job to support all of our vets to the best of our ability and it’s also our job as citizens to make sure that the politicians who put them in harm’s way are doing so with just cause.”
This year’s concert took place on Sunday, November 9th and featured traditional favorites, such as America the Beautiful and The Star-Spangled Banner, as well as an eclectic mix of patriotic and war-themed pieces, including an American premiere performance of a Lithuanian piece called Valiant Soldiers.
Aside from the FSU West Central Concert Band performers, the annual concert includes participation from around campus and the greater Big Rapids community. This year’s concert featured Paul Blake, Interim Provost, and Arthur Sherwood as guest speakers, as well as President David Eisler as a guest conductor.
“President Eisler is guest-conducting the final piece,” said Cohen. “He does a march. I started this Veterans Day concert series my 2nd year here at Ferris, which was President Eisler’s 1st year here. With the exception of one year when he was out of town, he has conducted at all of the Veterans Day concerts. Dr. Eisler was a band director; he has his Doctorate degree in clarinet performance from the University of Michigan. I don’t know how long he worked as a band director. He fairly quickly got into the college world and became an administrator. He stopped playing clarinet for a while and did the administration stuff. He’s played a lot of marches and knows a lot about them.” The final piece of the concert is typically a John Philip Sousa march.
The concert also features two speakers every year: welcoming remarks from someone on campus, this year by Paul Blake, and a veteran speaker. “Art [Sherwood] was a math professor here at Ferris for about 20 years and before that he spent 21 years in the Air Force,” said Cohen. “He’s been playing in the West Central Concert Band for 18 years, [so this is] the first time we’re having a band veteran do this speech!”
“I always have a lot of featured people doing stuff,” said Cohen. “We’ve had a bagpiper for the last several years and, before the concert, he’ll be playing on a small set of bagpipes outside in the lobby as people are coming in.” The bagpiper, Dave O’Neil, also plays Amazing Grace during a special ceremony in the middle of the concert.