Georgia band replaces VSO at benefit

MIDDLEBURY — The Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History will be marching to a new tune at its biggest annual fund-raiser on June 30 in order to add a little musical variety while cranking up the financial return.
For the past 18 years, the Sheldon Museum Pops Concert, which is hosted in the week leading up to the Fourth of July, had featured the Vermont Symphony Orchestra (VSO) as lead performer during an evening culminating in fireworks. The concert has yielded an important piece of the nonprofit Sheldon’s annual revenue stream.
But with VSO’s appearance fee now approaching $25,000, Sheldon officials have elected this year to cede the stage to the Georgia Brass Band (GBB) — an award-winning group with a smaller appearance fee and featuring a performer with local ties.
“We love the VSO and have enjoyed our relationship with them,” Sheldon Museum Executive Director Jan Albers said. “But the price had gotten so high, the margin of what we had to make on our concert had gotten too small to make it viable.
“The numbers weren’t working, as much as we love the VSO and want to support them,” she added.
And it is critical for the fund-raising numbers to work for cultural institutions in an economy that is grinding slowly toward recovery. Albers noted longtime supporters must be more selective than ever in spreading their philanthropy.
“There are only so many dollars to go around,” she said. “It’s always a challenge.”
Albers and Sheldon Associate Director Mary Manley stressed, however, that the Georgia Brass Band won’t miss a beat in terms of delivering on the kind of musical excellence concert-goers have come to expect. Georgia Brass is a British-style brass band from Atlanta, and it has recorded several top finishes at the annual North American Brass Band Association Championships.
“This is a well established and successful group,” Manley said. “They are known internationally.”
Not all the Georgia Brass members hail from the Peach State, however. Tuba player Tom Day is a former Addison County resident. Day also is the brother of Cornwall’s Cy Day Tall, chairwoman of the Sheldon Museum board of directors.
In a message on the Georgia Brass website (, Tom Day recalled how he had sent his sister the band’s Christmas CD this past winter. The siblings casually spoke about how nice it would be if his band could perform in Middlebury someday. That dream became a reality this year as the Sheldon board gave the CD a listen and invited the Georgia Brass to play the Pops Concert.
“I was thrilled with the prospect and forwarded the idea along to the GBB’s board of directors, which was also excited about the possible trip,” Day wrote. “GBB Director Joe Johnson, who grew up in Needham, Mass., almost immediately got in touch with his musical friends in that town and set up a tentative concert there — contingent upon our playing in Middlebury.”
The Georgia Brass soon firmed up its Middlebury and Needham dates. The band will salute America’s national holiday with a diverse repertoire of classical music, jazz tunes, movie themes and stirring marches.
Johnson said audience members should “plan on a few classic marches such as ‘Carnival King’ and ‘Stars and Stripes.’ There will also be a good dose of patriotic and American music, as well as some items that will feature soloists from the band.” A highlight will be Peter Graham’s “Call of the Cossacks,” described by Johnson as “a five-movement tour de force that shows off every section of the band. It is a very exciting piece to play and to hear.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
The Sheldon Museum Pops Concert on June 30 will take place on the grounds behind the Mahaney Center for the Arts at Middlebury College (rain site: Kenyon Arena). The grounds open at 5:30 p.m. for picnicking. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring a picnic basket, lawn chairs and blankets.
Ticket prices are $25 for adults, $10 for youths. Children under 12 will be admitted free. An “Early Bird” ticket price of $20 for adults has been extended to June 26. Tickets may be purchased by phone at 388-2117, online at, or in person at the museum at 1 Park St., in Middlebury.

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