The Long Island Concert Orchestra makes its debut as a symphony orchestra with a free performance Saturday night at Heckscher State Park, “Celebrating Hometown Heroes,” presented by the Islip Arts Council.

“This is a major step for us in connecting to the Long Island community,” says LICO director David Winkler. “It’s key to realizing our mission. This concert usually draws 10,000 or more to enjoy great music and fireworks.”

Formed in September through an initiative led by Winkler, also director of Chamber Players International playing in and around New York City, and former Long Island Philharmonic music director David Stewart Wiley, LICO previously performed the soundtrack score for a screening of “The Godfather” at Tilles Center, and with students in its high school outreach program.

“We consider this our first orchestral concert,” Winkler says, noting that the Tilles accompaniment was not led by Wiley, now music director of LICO, following the demise of the Philharmonic early last year when a New Jersey bank called in a loan.

SALUTING SERVICE

The new ensemble also played last summer’s “Hometown Heroes” concert — recognizing military and community service — as well as a free concert at Huntington’s Heckscher Park, both conducted by Wiley. But that group, mostly former Philharmonic musicians, and their board had not yet officially consolidated into the Long Island Concert Orchestra.

Saturday’s debut concert is an ambitious one. Besides patriotic themes — as usual, John Philip Sousa’s “Star and Stripes Forever” launches the Fireworks by Grucci finale — two world premieres by Long Islanders will be performed. Bayport composer Rey Burns’ “American Tapestry” is a highlight of the first half of the program, while Winkler’s “Festival Fanfare” opens the second. There will also be selections from Bernstein’s “West Side Story,” Copland’s “Hoedown” from “Rodeo,” the finale from Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony No. 9, Rossini’s allegro from “The William Tell Overture,” Richard Rodgers’ “Hymn of Victory” and John Williams’ “A Prayer for Peace.”

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“We try to strike a balance between symphonic repertoire and what you’d expect at an outdoor concert,” Winkler says.

A CONCERT SEASON?

Beyond Saturday’s performance and the Huntington concert Aug. 5, LICO is working toward a fall program at an indoor venue — “We’re not ready to announce yet,” Winkler says — plus a New Year’s Eve Broadway-themed concert at Tilles Center, formerly one of the Philharmonic’s most popular annual events. “Hopefully,” Winkler added, “we’ll then be in position to jump-start a spring 2018 subscription series.”

But first things first. If it were not for Islip Arts Council director Lynda Moran calling maestro Wiley after the Philharmonic folded, the musicians might not have played again on Long Island last summer — or ever. The council had a grant for its concert — a tradition since 1978 — which would have gone to waste without an orchestra.

“We’re proud to present the new orchestra,” Moran says, “in our 38th showcase of beautiful music under the stars.”