Spirit of America Tours South Africa

Photo courtesy of Spirit of America Band

In September, a new field and parade band will be created in Durban, South Africa, courtesy of the Spirit of America, an all-age community marching band based in Orleans, Mass.

“Our mission is really to youth, the youth in our band or the youth our band goes and works with,” says David Ortolani, public relations and booking agent. “That’s why we’re going to South Africa. There’s a real need for that kind of hopeful and exciting interaction, which is why we’re super excited.”

Founded in the 1970’s, the organization fields a marching band, wind ensemble, fife and drum unit, and winter percussion group. Participants range in age from 10 to 60.

“It’s a community band; it’s all volunteer performance membership,” Ortolani says. “It really started as a group that got together on one weekend for fun, and the town heard about it and asked them to play a parade, and it grew from there.”

On its South African tour, the group will give workshops in Durban, creating a field and parade band at the Ekhaya Multi Arts Center as well as performing its hour-long field show, “Exploration!,” for the local youth. Smaller groups of instructors and band members will return several times over the next five years to ensure the growth of the new program.

The band will also travel to Johannesburg to perform ticketed shows of its indoor stage production, “The Fall and Rise of the Phoenix.” It will also conduct free workshops and matinee performances for local youth.

Spirit of America is currently fundraising and preparing for the trip. It is also collecting and repairing donations of used instruments for its newly created “Re-Sound” program to provide instruments to young people in South Africa as well as the United States and throughout the world.

The Re-Sound program is based on the premise that “one trombone forgotten in an attic or one clarinet found in a basement can be the inspiration a child needs. Every child deserves a chance to play, and every instrument needs to be played.”

“There are lots of instruments sitting out there unused across the United States,” Ortolani says. “Many of us in the band fi eld can understand what music can do for a person. In a sense, [the instrument’s] voice isn’t being heard, and they can be put into the hands of a child who needs it.”

For more information about Spirit of America, check out www.spiritofamericaband.org.

About author

Elizabeth Geli

Elizabeth Geli is the assistant editor of Halftime Magazine and a journalist/communications professional in Southern California. Her 11 years at the University of Southern California (USC) Trojan Marching Band included time as a flute player, graduate teaching assistant, and student advocate. She holds a bachelor's degree in Print Journalism and master's degree in Specialized Journalism (The Arts) from USC.

A photo of Jack Eaddy, Jr., Dr. Shayna Stahl, and Jacob Vogel.

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