American Wind Band’s mission includes extending education and enjoyment of band music.

One way the Downers Grove-based group does this is through its annual scholarship concert. Make Our Garden Grow takes place April 21 at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church.

“We really want to support local community members but also promote music education and try to support the youth in their musical endeavors,” said Julie Siarny, American Wind Band’s music director.

Founded by Vincent Furman, the 501(c)(3) band of approximately 80 musicians includes residents of the Arlington Heights area, Darien, Downers Grove, Joliet, Lisle, Oswego, Westchester, Westmont, Yorkville and Hammond, Indiana.

They collaborate with the four 2024 American Wind Band Scholarship Program recipients for the concert, which includes student awardees’ solos as well as performances with the group.

“It’s a really good experience for a student or anyone educationally to perform in front of a large audience,” said Siarny, a Westchester native who lives in Darien.

“As far as them playing with the band, that’s not required. We always give (scholarship recipients) the option. We have never had anyone say, ‘No.’

“They get to play more challenging music. They get to play a lot of music all at once. They get to sit next to experienced players and they get to learn a lot from that.”

Make Our Garden Grow in Elmhurst includes the piece of the same name from the operetta “Candide,” which features music composed by Leonard Bernstein; Morton Gould’s “American Youth March” and “Blossom Time: Overture” featuring melodies of Franz Schubert.

“We like to have a variety of pieces on all of our concert programs. We’ll have some serious band music that can be more challenging for our performers,” said Siarny, who joined American Wind Band as a flutist in 1992 when she was 16 years old.

“For the more classical music lovers, (there’s) art music like ‘Festive Overture’ by (Dmitri) Shostakovich.  That’s a big piece. It’s pretty well-known. Then we have the ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ melody so someone who likes musicals, that’s there for them. ‘Mountain Greenery’ (is) a clarinet section feature. It’s a little jazzy.

“We have different styles, different kinds of music so hopefully something for everyone.”

The $1,700 Henrietta Kowalski Memorial Scholarship goes to Zoe Strange, a flutist and junior at Plainfield Central High School, who performs in her school wind ensemble, was in Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra and is in Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras.

The $1,500 Joe J. Zid Memorial Scholarship goes to Lukas Phillips, an English horn player and senior at Lyons Township High School in La Grange, who performs in his school wind ensemble.

“The scholarships are all memorial scholarships. We have specific donors for those. Other donations we get go toward our operating expenses,” Siarny said.

The $1,650 William and Nancy Moore Scholarship goes to McKenna Workman, an eighth-grade flutist from Eisenhower Junior High School in Darien, who plays in her school band and jazz band.

The $1,275 John Pyska Memorial Scholarship goes to Keriann “Keri” Clark, a clarinetist from O’Neill Middle School in Downers Grove, who also plays piano, tenor saxophone and baritone sax in her school band, jazz band and Naperville Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Jessi Virtusio is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

American Wind Band’s Make Our Garden Grow

When: 3 p.m. April 21

Where: Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church, 149 W. Brush Hill Road, Elmhurst

Tickets: free

Information: facebook.com/AmericanWindBand/

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