Sumter Community Concert Band 40th Anniversary Concert on May 1 to feature world-renowned composer Jay Bocook


For 40 years, the Sumter Community Concert Band has provided free concerts to the community to share its love and passion of music. To celebrate such a milestone, the band will host a free anniversary concert that will feature some very special guests.

Founded in 1982, the Sumter Community Concert Band is a non-profit managed by a board of directors elected from the band. Teachers, farmers, pilots, nurses, pharmacists, college students and more add up to 40 musicians from Sumter, Shaw Air Force Base and surrounding counties. The band debuted Nov. 14, 1982, at the Sumter Opera House before it was renovated in 1985. Over the years, the band has performed at Swan LakeIris Gardens, Bishopville's Opera House, the renovated Sumter Opera House and more.

To celebrate their tenure, Florida native and world-renowned composer Jay Bocook will be the guest conductor for the concert. According to his biography, Bocook graduated from Furman University in 1975 with a Bachelor of Music degree and went on to earn his Master of Music degree from the University of Louisiana. He began composing and arranging in graduate school, where he wrote for Jenson Publications; served as band director at a high school in Travelers Rest, where he led the band to become the 1978 South Carolina AAA state marching band champions; and served as director of bands at Furman University from 1982 to 1989. He rose to fame when his compositions were featured in the 1984, 1988, 1996 and 2002 Olympic Games. He was inducted into the American Bandmasters Association, the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame and is a member of the South Carolina Band Directors Association Hall of Fame.

Alongside Bocook, former conductors of the concert band will take the stage to conduct select songs performed during their tenure.

Mark Fischer, the band's first conductor, will direct the first song of the night, "America the Beautiful." He served as conductor from 1982 to 1984 and conducted the song at the band's first concert.

Rick Mitchum, a member of the band since 1982, was delighted to have Fischer back on stage.

"It's really special to us that he's coming back to conduct," Mitchum said on behalf of the band.

Along with Fischer, former conductors Joni Brown (1984 - 1988) will direct the unique, fresh sounding song "Viper" and the simple yet exciting melody "Fantasy on Yankee Doodle"; Randy Oswalt (1995 - 1997) will conduct "Semper Fidelis," the official march of the United States Marine Corps; and Brandon Vaughn (2003-2004) will conduct "His Honor March," a brisk circus march to challenge all instruments.

The band will also perform several select songs from previous shows as a tribute to the community and some of its lush landmarks. Bocook will also premiere a composition written specifically for the concert band titled "Spirit of Ostenaco," recognizing the friendship of Cherokee leader and warrior Otacity Ostenaco and Gen. Thomas Sumter.

Mitchum shared that the last 40 years of performing have been a "blessing." At times he found it difficult to manage his 10-hour-a-day job with two hours of rehearsal and other day-to-day responsibilities. However, the stressors of life were the least of his worries when he began to play music.

"When you play that music, everything else is out of the way. It's therapy when you go there for two hours and you're reading that music. That's all you think about, everything else is wiped out," Mitchum said. "It's therapy not only for us but for the people in the audience."

The band allowed Mitchum to meet and befriend people he wouldn't have despite being from the same town. Through his fellow musicians, young and old, and Sumter's diverse community, he learned music has the ability to transcend numerous boundaries.

He spoke on behalf of the band as he thanked Sumter for its continuous support and beamed about the delight it has been to play for their hometown for so many years.

The Sumter Community Concert Band's 40th Anniversary Concert will begin at 3 p.m. on May 1 at Patriot Hall, 135 Haynsworth St. Admission is free. A reception with light refreshments will follow the concert.