T.J. Hovest is a former longtime Juneau resident now teaching music in Fairbanks, but when offered a chance to guest conduct an annual Independence Day weekend concert in his former hometown for the second time in three years he was all too eager to raise the red, white and blue flag.
“The Fourth of July is really important here,” he said after the 75-minute concert by the Juneau Volunteer Marching Band on Sunday at Sealaska Heritage Plaza, adding Fairbanks residents tend to be more involved in celebrations such as the summer solstice.
A few hundred people showed up to listen to the concert hosted by Juneau Community Bands — some for a few minutes while passing through the plaza, others for the entire show — which opened with national and state songs before launching into an early selection of pop, movie and video game tunes. The set list also featured works such as Coldplay’s jazz-fusion “Arabesque” and the U.S. Navy Band’s “With Quiet Courage” as the concert neared its end, all of which were performed by the band after six two-hour rehearsals.
“It’s a tricky challenge,” Hovest said. “I don’t know all the players and I also don’t know who is going to come out and play.”
The concert ended with “the piece you’ve all been waiting for,” Hovest told the audience before the musicians launched into “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” He also reminded listeners the band will be in proper “marching” form a couple of days from now during the official Independence Day holiday.
“You can hear the piece again in the parade,” he said.
Some of the musicians shifted around between instruments for certain songs, which Hovest said was “mostly for the excitement of the players.” For one song he handed the conductor’s baton to Patrick Jimmerson, a local brass player who’s studying music at Loyola University in New Orleans.
Jimmerson said it was his first time conducting the local marching band, which was simply the result of a casual conversation when he met Hovest during rehearsals.
“I was telling him how I was studying music and the next day (at rehearsals) he let me conduct,” Jimmerson said.
Jimmerson said he’s planning to celebrate his version of a traditional July 4 in Juneau, but that won’t be among those who gather downtown to watch fireworks on the night of July 3 or marching with his bandmates in the parade on Independence Day.
“I’m going to be camping on the mountain,” he said, referring to Mount Roberts towering above downtown Juneau near the plaza. “It’s super beautiful up there and it’s been an annual tradition with a group of friends.”