(WKBN) — The Youngstown Area Community Concert Band is celebrating a big milestone kicking off the concert season and hopes it makes you love music, too.

The YACCB is now getting ready to kick off its summer concert season.

The band is celebrating 40 years of making music for the community.

The band was formed in 1983 by Bill Gretsinger and others, for the purpose of giving musicians a place to play and forming an ensemble to provide free concerts in the area. The first conductor was Joe Purser, who was a band director at Liberty High School. After a year or two, Mike Farraro conducted until the summer of 1990. In September of that year, the present conductor (Joe Pellegrini) took over the baton.

Pellegrini has been conducting the band for 33 years. He’s a retired band director/music teacher of 38 years at Austintown Schools and Champion High School. He is an Army veteran — who was an Army Bandsman for three years — and a graduate of The Navy School of Music and Youngstown State University.

“There’s no other way to put it, being around these great musicians and friends, it’s just too much fun,” Pellegrini said. “I just enjoy it too much.”

It’s an open community non-profit band of volunteer members from Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Portage counties.

“There’s a lot more people who are really serious about what we’re doing and want this to be not just something to do on Thursday nights, but a really first-class band,” said Alan Stiver, a 37-year band member.

All concerts are free. Musicians range in age from high school to 80-year-olds with professional and recreational musicians. Some members have been in the band since the beginning.

“I’ve been a musician all my life,” said Ed D’Angelo, a 40-year member. “It was a time in my life I wanted to get involved again in a concert band and I happen to see the ad in the paper. My wife told me about it. I said I’d look into it, and I did. And I’ve been with it ever since.”

This year, the band will perform all movie music with a concentration on music by John Williams — picked by a committee of musicians in the band.

“If you like movie music, this is the year to come out to hear us,” Pellegrini said.

The biggest fundraiser the band plays is A Holiday Concert of Giving, every season since 2011. It has raised over $53,000 for the Second Harvest Food Bank.

“Second Harvest connection began in 1999 when I was still teaching in Austintown. I was director of jazz ensemble,” Pellegrini said. “We did a Christmas concert together. My jazz ensemble played and commumity band played. We raised money for Second Harvest. I retired in ’07. We did one more concert in ’08 then we were off for a year or so. We came back at Deyor, did one on our own. The following year we got together with Stambaugh Chorus.”

The band practices Thursday evenings at Austintown Middle School and YSU during the summer. In the first few years, it rehearsed at Ursuline HS, then moved to The Jewish Community Center. After another few years the Dana School Of Music, YSU, gave them a home for rehearsals.

For more information and a full concert schedule, visit the YACCB’s website.

During the early days performance sites were hard to come by. The band performed at the Jewish Center, Walk On Wick, which would later become the YSU Festival Of The Arts, and at a July 4 festival in Ellwood City, Pa.

The YACCB is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization and depends on stipends from performance venues, donations and grants. There is a strong organization of officers: President, vice president, treasurer, member-at-large and a group that helps the conductor choose and purchase music. The librarians and the conductor are the only ones who receive a small salary for their responsibilities.

Today, the typical list of performance venues includes Morley Pavilion, Boardman Park, Austintown Park, Copeland Oaks, Buhl Park, the YSU Festival Of The Arts and the Mercer, Pa. summer concert series. Church festivals and assisted living facilities are often on the concert list.

Some of the more notable performances over the years (since 1992) are:

  • Ameriflora in Columbus, Ohio
  • The dedication of “Lincoln, The Rail Splitter”, by Norman Rockwell, at the Butler Art Museum. A performance of A Lincoln Portrait, with then-mayor Jay Williams, as the narrator
  • The dedication of original Warner Brothers cartoon drawings, at the Butler Art Museum
  • The first concert band performance of “The Armed Man”, with the Stambaugh Chorus, conducted by Dr. Hae-Jong Lee, at Stambaugh Auditorium
  • A performance at the National Convention Of The Association Of Concert Bands, Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • Three appearances at the Three Rivers Community Band Festival, in Upper St. Claire, Pa.