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Minnesota National Guard
Veterans honored in special musical performance

St Cloud State University will honor veterans today with two locally produced world premieres and special performances featuring the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Minnesota National Guard Band that recently returned from Iraq

ichard Hansen, director of university bands at St Cloud State  University, conducts the St Cloud State band during rehearsal for  today's Veterans Day tribute concert (By Adam Hammer,  aehammer@stcloudtimescom)
Richard Hansen, director of university bands at St Cloud State University, conducts the St Cloud State band during rehearsal for today's Veterans Day tribute concert (By Adam Hammer, aehammer@stcloudtimescom)

t Cloud State students rehearse the song

St Cloud State students rehearse the song "American Veteran," which has its world premiere today during the "American Spirit" event (By Adam Hammer, aehammer@stcloudtimescom)

 "It's important to us," said Richard Hansen, director of university bands at St Cloud State "We're most interested in honoring veterans on Veterans Day"

"American Spirit: Veterans Tribute" is the university's third annual Veterans Day tribute concert and ceremony It starts at 7 tonight at Ritsche Auditorium and will include music by the Minnesota Windfest Symphony, St Cloud State Wind Ensemble and the "Red Bull" Band with numerous guest conductors

"We've been doing it for three years, but we've never had the National Guard band and we've never done premieres, so those are two things that set this ceremony aside," Hansen said

Veteran community

Hansen said this concert and ceremony is especially important for St Cloud State because of the university's large veteran population The school has the largest student veteran population - more than 525 students - of the 32 schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system

Joseph Schweich, a choir student who will premiere "The Brave and the Free" at the concert, is a veteran who served on a submarine in the Navy

"He wrote that piece just to honor the veterans," Hansen said

The university's president, Earl H Potter III, also is a veteran who played coronet in the United States Coast Guard band, and six St Cloud State alumni from the Wind Ensemble are members of the "Red Bull" Band

"They took rifles and instruments with," Hansen said
"They have played for presidential inaugurations, and at national parades in DC, the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference and others That's an important group of people"

The "Red Bull" Band recently returned from duty in Basra, Iraq

"I think the biggest thing they want to hear us say is, "˜Thank you,' " Hansen said "Just know that we thank you and that we're thinking of you"

Little Falls High School band director Jonathan LaFlamme, who recently completed a master's degree in conducting at St Cloud State, will say thank you with the premiere of his song "American Veteran"

LaFlamme composed the song after a conversation with his wife's 94-year-old grandfather Edward Grazzini Grazzini served on the construction battalion in World War II

"He's a pretty inspiring guy," LaFlamme said

Grazzini was living in his parents' attic with his new wife, who was pregnant with their first child, when Pearl Harbor was attacked Dec 7, 1941 He enlisted right away

When he kissed his wife goodbye, she was eight months pregnant

LaFlamme retells his story of the war through music with narration by former student Gunnar Kolstad, whose father is serving in Afghanistan LaFlamme calls the piece a "programmatic tone poem with narration"

"American Veteran" is LaFlamme's first large-scale composition

"I'm calmer than I thought I would be," LaFlamme said
Patriotic themes and sounds depicting scenes from war are unmistakable LaFlamme mixes traditional instrumentation with found objects such as an air raid siren to create his sonic spaces

"I thought about using percussion that already exists, but I couldn't get anything authentic and I didn't want to use an MP3 or electric sounds I was able to find a siren online that I could hook up to a battery," LaFlamme said

"I wanted to create sounds so people wouldn't have to wonder what it was, but right away would be able to identify what's going on"

LaFlamme plans to have his Little Falls High School band perform "American Veteran" again in the spring

"In Little Falls, we have a lot of students whose families are very involved with the military with Camp Ripley being right there I have quite a few students that have their parents overseas," LaFlamme said

Community connections

"American Veteran" is part of the "Profiles of Courage" portion of the concert that also includes traditional patriotic selections such as "America, the Beautiful," "Americans We," "Streets of Honor: March" and "The Stars and Stripes Forever"

After the "Profiles of Courage" will be a presentation by the St Cloud chapter of Disabled American Veterans, an organization Hansen said he hopes to continue to build a relationship with

"They have a very poignant story to tell," Hansen said "Some of them have lost their families, and their kids don't recognize them when they come home We need to find ways to support them more"

Hansen said he hopes this year's tribute concert sets the bar for the future with concerts featuring more premiere works and continued outreach into the community

"We're just trying to be a connector," he said

By Adam Hammer "¢ aehammer@stcloudtimescom "¢ November 11, 2010

If you go
What: "American Spirit: Veterans Tribute" presented by St Cloud State University
When: 7 pm Nov 11
Where: Ritsche Auditorium, St Cloud State University
Tickets: Free at St Cloud State Atwood Box Office, 308-4081
Details: Featuring the Minnesota Windfest Symphony, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Minnesota National Guard Band and SCSU Wind Ensemble


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