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American Fork Symphony salutes America, armed forces in upcoming amphitheater show

July 13, 2018

Brace yourself for a patriotic celebration of epic proportions as the American Fork Symphony descends on the American Fork Amphitheatre on Monday for its “Salute to America” concert, set to serve as the kick-off to American Fork’s Steel Days festivities.

“We’ve done it for many years,” said Christi Babbit, symphony publicist, first flute and an 18-year member of the group, of the upcoming amphitheater presentation. “It’s a formal part of the American Fork Steel Days celebration, and it’s unique in that it’s the only outdoor concert we do during the year.”

As a bonus, the support from Steel Days means it’s also the symphony’s only free concert of the year, as income from the others help to keep the musical magic afloat.

“It’s family-friendly and family-oriented,” Babbitt said of the free concert, adding that “people can come to the outdoor amphitheater in American Fork and bring their blankets and chairs and sit out with their kids and have a good time.”

Though the Fourth of July has passed and Pioneer Day is not yet upon us, according to Babbitt, the kick-off to Steel Days is another great opportunity to give nod to the country we live in.

“We play more pops-type music and have a lot of patriotic music,” Babbitt said of the lineup. “If kids want to get up and dance, hey, it’s great. They’re welcome to. It’s just fun music. We’re playing ‘Seventy-Six Trombones’ from ‘The Music Man,’ and playing a piece where our piccolo Connie Pritt will be featured as a soloist. … Three trumpet players will be featured in ‘Bugler’s Holiday,’ which is a really popular Leroy Anderson piece, and we’ll play ‘Hoedown’ from Copeland’s ‘Rodeo.’ We’ll also have a medley of American Folk tunes like ‘Shenandoah’ and ‘Oh, Susannah,’ and it’s just really a celebration of American music and American favorites.”

Though American Fork Symphony concerts are usually set in more traditional venues with a lineup featuring several classical works, Babbitt said this set-up is the perfect one for families to introduce their children to the beauty of symphony music in a more casual setting.

“This is really what summer concerts are all about,” Babbitt said, “and we’d love for the community to come join us and enjoy this and all the Steel Days activities.”

Symphony conductor Shauna Smith shares similar sentiments regarding the upcoming concert, mentioning the choice to do more Americana pieces this year that focus in on the music of the country.

“One of the pieces we’re doing is called ‘American Landscape,’ ” Smith said. “It’s a new piece of music that was recently done in the last couple of years, and if you close your eyes and just listen, you’ll feel like you’re on one of those rides that takes you to different parts of America. It reminds you of different visuals and landscapes.”

Smith compared the song to the soundtrack of a road trip, though it wraps up at just two minutes. Another recurring symphony favorite for the concert is the “Armed Forces Salute,” which is a medley of songs representing different areas of the United States military. Known to be a particularly moving piece, audience members who served in the military are invited to stand when their particular music plays.

“We want them to know that we really appreciate them, so it’s a great opportunity to have them stand up in the crowd and be recognized,” Smith said.

According to Symphony President Jason Ovard, the group hopes to take things a step further this year with the addition of service members in uniform as a part of the presentation.

“We’ll have members of each of the divisions in full uniform,” Ovard said. “The amphitheater is a big half circle, and they would march with the flag of their division during their part of the song.”

The end result is a patriotic celebration perfect for the whole community.

“We usually try to play fun, and most of the time patriotic pieces, that the audience can connect to and just have a good, fun, enjoyable time,” Ovard said. “I like how this concert kind of brings the whole community together.”

Smith, who also serves as director of orchestras at American Fork Junior High and High School, said that community aspect and the casual environment of the outdoor concert make for the perfect event.

“It’s a neat opportunity because a lot of times the community doesn’t always come to orchestra concerts, and has a preconceived idea of what the symphony is or does,” Smith said. “This is a way that we can always give them a taste of what the symphony does in a fun situation.”

The concert has the full support of the city, which, according to Smith, makes a huge difference, especially as the symphony’s 25th anniversary season, which kicks off officially this fall, grows nearer.

“American Fork City supports us and supports the arts and what we do,” she said. “The concert is going to be so fun – it’s one of my favorite things to do every year, and I just encourage everyone to come because it’s a chance to be a part of a different thing for themselves, to hear some great music and honor some great people.”