I recently enjoyed a Ballston Spa Community Band concert while attending the New York State School Music Conference in Albany, New York. Prior to the concert, I had the opportunity to meet the conductor, Ms. Tracy DeRagon. One of the pieces programmed generated a rather interesting conversation.
The name of the ninth piece on the program was ‘Tis a Gift by Anne McGinty. This piece holds special meaning in the hearts of both the composer and to many Pepper employees, so I shared the story with Tracy.
On July 17, 1996, three band students from the Montoursville Area High School (Northern Pennsylvania) tragically lost their lives aboard TWA Flight 800. Following a memorial concert held shortly after the accident, members of the band suggested the idea of a dedicatory work. With this in mind, we were contacted to make this idea a reality. We approached composer Anne McGinty about writing a commissioned work, and she eagerly agreed to write the piece to honor and celebrate the students’ lives. At that point we decided both the composer’s worldwide royalties as well as all proceeds from Pepper’s sale of the piece would be donated to the band’s ‘Tis a Scholarship Fund for Music Education.
Return now to the Ballston Spa band concert in 2010. Before each piece, the conductor shared personal stories and introductions about each piece. When it was time for ‘Tis a Gift, she shared our conversation with the audience.
Attending this concert left me with a very special feeling and I felt truly honored to be part of a special cause that transcends music and still has meaning today.