A lot of work and careful planning goes into organizing every free concert event in the city, and the work put in by the Long Beach Municipal Band is no different.
Each concert involves a troupe of professional musicians — with credits at Hollywood studios, the Long Beach Symphony and popular record labels — as well as a crew of sound engineers and stage hands to set up (and take down) the venue.
And Larry Curtis, the longtime Municipal Band conductor, said that he has no plans to quit anytime soon. Even after 27 years of performing at Long Beach parks, the conductor insists that the show must go on.
"That feeling of getting to the park early and seeing people with their picnic baskets and blankets and chairs, that's a real good feeling," he said. "We plan to play in front of over 10,000 people every week, and I'm still excited for every show."
This year, the band is celebrating 110 years of free performances at various Long Beach parks. The family friendly musical numbers encourages neighbors to pack a picnic dinner, bring a few blankets and chairs and get outside to enjoy the music.
Some people even get dressed up for the occasion.
"The audiences are just tremendous, and it’s great to see the generations of people come and go," Curtis said. "People even dress for the theme, like when we play film scores, people will show up dressed as characters, and that's always fun."
The full band features 40 players, with about 75 members on the waitlist just in case someone can't show up.
"We have very little turnover. Maybe a total of 13 have left since I've been here," he said. "We're all very eager to play — and keep playing."
Curtis said that he splits his concerts in half, with the full band playing the first eight or nine songs. Then after an intermission, a smaller studio band returns with a guest artist.
All concerts start at 6:30 p.m. Here is the rest of the summer's schedule.
Thursday, June 27, at Marine Stadium; Friday, June 28, at El Dorado Park West.
Opening week kicks off with American folk music with a classical Americana sound.
Tuesday, July 2 (Whaley Park), Wednesday, July 3 (Los Cerritos Park) and Friday, July 5 (El Dorado Park West). There is no concert Thursday, July 4.
The theme is “Indivisible With Liberty and Justice for All" and will feature patriotic musical numbers featuring Barbara Morrison behind the microphone.
Tuesday, July 9 (Chavez Park), Wednesday, July 10 (Los Cerritos Park), Thursday, July 11 (Marine Stadium) and Friday, July 12 (El Dorado Park West).
The theme is "A Constellation of Stars" featuring top 40 favorites with Tony Galla.
Tuesday, July 16 (Bluff Park), Wednesday, July 17 (Los Cerritos Park), Thursday, July 18 (Marine Stadium), Friday, July 19 (El Dorado Park West).
Classical favorites from the Long Beach Municipal Band's 110-year repertoire will be performed with Meloney Collins at the mic.
Tuesday, July 23 (Bluff Park), Wednesday, July 24 (Los Cerritos Park), Thursday, July 25 (Marine Stadium), Friday, July 26 (El Dorado Park West).
Movie soundtracks featuring Hollywood favorites from Disney and more. Mark Kopitzke will add his classical jazz stylings to the sounds of the Studio Band.
Tuesday, July 30 (Bluff Park), Wednesday, July 31 (Los Cerritos Park) Thursday, Aug. 1 (Marine Stadium), Friday, Aug. 2 (El Dorado Park West).
This concert will showcase compositions that involve audience participation including the “1812 Overture.” Nicole Kubis will end the season with the Studio Band.
"We've got a busy summer ahead of us, but I wouldn't have it any other way," Curtis said. "Long Beach has its own personality and a lot of it has to do with music and the arts and how involved the community is with all of it; it’s just a special place — it really is — and it takes a special kind of community service to support all of this."
For more information about the Long Beach Municipal Band, or for a schedule of showtimes, go to longbeach.gov/park/recreation-programs/programs-and-classes/live-outdoor-bands.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.