PSV Music

Pensacola's Salute to Veterans | November 11, 2017

Click this video to see a special message from Director of the Pensacola Civic Band, Don Snowden, and many of the band members. Scroll down to learn more about the music and the “Pensacola’s Salute to Veteran’s” concert.


Young Charles Ives

Variations on “America” by Charles Ives (arr. William Schuman)

Charles Ives was one of the few artists with the luxury – and talent – to exercise his full creative energies unimpeded by the need to eke out a living from his art. He was the son a New England bandleader who started him on his way to becoming one of the most innovative and independent composers. He learned the rudiments of polytonality and polyrhythm from his father, who allowed him to bang on the piano with his fist “as long as you know what you’re doing,” and sent him off to learn drums, piano and organ. As a composer, Ives always marched to a different drummer, never abandoning his fists at the piano. Although his father dreamed of his son as concert pianist, Ives embarked on a successful career in life insurance. He lived a double life, experimenting and composing in his idiosyncratic musical style, ascharles-ives-3 well as applying his creativity and idealism to his business. His important new concepts for the life insurance industry, including estate planning, made Ives & Myrick the largest agency in the country. At age 14, Ives became the youngest salaried church organist in Connecticut and started composing anthems and sacred songs for church service. Although he worked at music with remarkable discipline for his age, he was partially ashamed of it. When people asked him what he played, he replied, “shortstop.” In 1891 he composed his virtuoso Variations on “America” for organ, based on the old national hymn, also known overseas as “God Save the Queen [Victoria].” The variations include some of his early experiments in polytonality (although some of the polytonal interludes were added in 1909-10). They are full of misplaced fanfares and mock solemnity – a gifted teenager’s caper. Queen Victoria surely would not have been amused.

In 1963, Broadcast Music Inc. commissioned William Schuman to orchestrate Ives’s work. The orchestrated version was premiered by the New York Philharmonic under Andre Kostelanetz. Schuman captured Ives’s spirit in a rollicking and zany orchestration.

Star Spangles Spectacular by Geaorge M. Cohan

George Michael Cohan (July 3, 1878 – November 5, 1942), known professionally as George M. Cohan, was an American entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer and producer. Cohan began his career as a child, performing with his parents and sister in a vaudeville act known as The Four Cohans. Beginning with Little Johnny Jones in 1904, he wrote, composed, produced and appeared in more than three dozen Broadway musicals. Cohan published more than 300 songs during his lifetime, including the standards “Over There,” “Give My Regards to Broadway,” “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” As a composer, he was one of the early members of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). He displayed remarkable theatrical longevity, appearing in films until the 1930s, and continuing to perform as a headline artist until 1940. Known in the decade before World War I as “the man who owned Broadway,” he is considered the father of American musical comedy. His life and music were depicted in the Academy Award-winning film Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) and the 1968 musical George M!. A statue of Cohan in Times Square in New York City commemorates his contributions to American musical theatre. Arranger John Cacavas was a Hollywood composer and conductor probably best known for his television scores and for his educational music in the areas of symphonic band, orchestra, chorus and chamber works.

Samuel A. Ward

America the Beautiful by Samuel Ward (arr. Carmen Dragon)

America the Beautiful has been deemed by many to be the national hymn of the United States. Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929) wrote the words, inspired by a visit to Pikes Peak in Colorado and other western vistas. Her poem, originally entitled simply America, was first published in the Boston magazine The Congregationalist on July 4, 1895.  Samuel Augustus Ward (1847-1903) wrote the tune, which he called Materna, in 1882.  He was a church organist in New Jersey and the last descendent in a long line of Samuel Wards that started with a Rhode Island governor and Continental Congress delegate.  Ward and Bates would never meet.  Their works were not combined until a 1910 publication, 7 years after Ward’s death, presented them in the form that is still familiar today. 


Of the many arrangements of America the Beautiful that exist for band, Carmen Dragon‘s is by far the most epic.  Dragon (1914-1984) was a conductor, composer, and arranger whose work included numerous film scores, a long engagement with the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra, and a long-running classical music radio show on the Armed Forces Network.  Dragon died in Santa Monica, California in 1984. He unleashes the full color palate of the band and pushes the harmonic language as far as is possible in a traditional tune.