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Northwinds band concert keeps tradition

Helen Bauer conducts the Northwinds Symphonic Band, which

Helen Bauer conducts the Northwinds Symphonic Band, which will present a benefit concert May 1, 2011, at Wunsch Arts Center in Glen Cove. Photo Credit: Handout

The Northwinds Symphonic Band sprouted from patriotic roots. The Glen Head-based ensemble traces its origins to a wartime concert band. The players, most of whom worked for Grumman, the Long Island defense contractor, performed concerts in the company hangar.

Northwinds continues the tradition with concerts on Independence Day at Glen Cove's Morgan Park and on Veterans Day at the Cradle of Aviation Museum.

But Northwinds' playlist ranges far beyond John Philip Sousa marches.

"We play a wide variety," says Northwinds music director Helen Bauer, "from show tunes to transcriptions of orchestral music, as well as the concert band repertoire."

Now in its fourth year, Northwinds plays a benefit Sunday for the North Shore Sheltering Program assisting the homeless. "Every dime will go to the cause," Bauer promises. "We're all volunteers here."


Starting in World War II, Grumman sponsored a concert band made up largely of employees. When Northrop took over Grumman, the band continued, though by then most players were outsiders. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, security became a concern. Musicians who were not employees lacked clearance, not to mention company IDs. And they toted instrument cases. "It became a hassle," recalls Don Ranieri of Glen Cove, a trumpeter with the band. "Can you imagine the guy with a drum kit going through a security check?"

So the band lost its home.

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After several years of searching for rehearsal space, Bauer, a retired Baldwin teacher and band director, was asked to lead them out of the wilderness. "We wanted a home for our tremendous library of concert band arrangements," says Ranieri.

Since 2007, Northwinds has been rehearsing every Tuesday night of the school year at Glen Head's North Shore High School.

"We started with 23 musicians," says Bauer. "Now we have 80. Our concerts are free. We see it as our mission to bring concert band music to the public."

The youngest musician is 16, says Bauer, and the oldest is 82. "We have a 98 percent attendance record," she says. "We seek perfection."


Sunday's benefit features music from such classics as "My Fair Lady," "West Side Story," "Oklahoma!" and the sadly neglected "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" -- lush score, lousy book. Also on the program are more recent titles: "The Producers," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Avenue Q," plus the currently revived "La Cage Aux Folles" and long-running "The Lion King."

We'd like to nominate "The Music Man." Northwinds can generate a sound big enough for "Seventy-Six Trombones." Among its 35 brass players are seven trombonists.

WHAT: Northwinds Symphonic Band's "Broadway Showstoppers" benefit concert for the North Shore Sheltering Program

WHEN | WHERE: 3 p.m. Sunday at the Wunsch Arts Center, 1 Forest Ave., Glen Cove, in the Finley Middle School complex

INFO: $15 donation;, 516-671-0258


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