By M.E. Jones


HARVARD — Call it a festival or a musical meeting that happens only every couple of years, the John Philip Sousa Honors Band is an event worthy of the hoopla it creates.

Sponsored by the John Philip Sousa Foundation, which supports the cause of “wind band music” across the country, the Honors Band honors the famous bandsman whose name has become synonymous with rousing tunes, patriotic anthems and big brass bands, marching or otherwise.

One of the foundation’s most successful and popular programs, the Sousa Honors Band gathers together some of the best middle and high school student musicians from throughout the United States. Specifically, woodwind, brass and percussion players.

Regionally, the band is open to “the most outstanding” student players in New England, with 1,200 invitations sent out to schools in the six-state region this year.

Applications are typically submitted by schools’ music directors, although students occasionally try out for the band. .

The New England National Honor Band festival, held at The Bromfield School this year, is organized every two or three years, according to Executive Director Robert Rucinski, a pianist and former Bromfield teacher who co-organized the event this year. The festival was first held here in 2002 and most recently in 2009. “This is our fifth,” he said.

Two talented conductors, each famed in their own right, led middle and high school Honors Band groups.

Frances Shelton, who directs a successful high school band program in Hendersonville, North Carolina, conducted the younger Honors Band, which included sixth graders for the first time this year.

Retired Coast Guard Captain Lewis J. Buckley conducted the high school Honors Band. He was the Coast Guard Band’s fifth conductor and the band became renowned under his baton. When he retired after 29 years, Buckley was the longest-tenured conductor of a senior military band in American history.

The three-day Sousa Honors Band festival began Thursday and culminates with a concert on Saturday, April 21 at 3 p.m. in the school’s Cronin Auditorium. Admission is $10 a person. Tickets may be purchased at the door or reserved by calling 617-529-9402.