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Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
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Twenty-one members of the Combat Center Band perform for the residents of Reedsport, Ore., May 30 during a concert showcasing a variety of music for the small town of roughly 4,000 people.

Photo by Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt

Band opens Memorial Day weekend to standing ovation

11 Jun 2010 | Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

All was quiet in the small, coastal town of Reedsport Ore., until the Combat Center Band arrived under an honorary police escort to give the residents a patriotic soundtrack to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend.

The band, now on its eighth annual trip to the quiet town, made their presence known with a widely-anticipated concert at the Reedsport High School Pacific Auditorium May 30, marking the first of many performances taking place during the following days.

“It means so much to our community given the percentage of vets in the area,” said Joe Mirvis, the events planner with the Reedsport/Winchester Bay Chamber of Commerce. “We look forward to this year-round, and we feel very privileged to have them here.”

 The gratitude of residents was apparent, but not just in kind remarks. Contributions from the city’s Chamber of Commerce, and local shops and businesses sponsor the band’s yearly trip, which helps to dramatically reduce the band’s financial costs each year.

 Twenty-one members, about half of the Combat Center Band, performed various military and jazz tunes for the packed auditorium.

“It’s harder to perform [with half the band], because the blend is different and the balance is different, but we pulled it off,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen Giove, the Combat Center Band conductor. The experience was even more challenging for the band, as they had one rehearsal to prepare, he added.

“The concert went very well. It was well received by the audience. The Marines played magnificently. They enjoyed it, and when the band enjoys it the audience enjoys it.”

The highlight of the performance was, when Sgt. James Holt stopped playing his saxophone mid-song to answer a cell phone call.

Giove was caught off guard and looked on in shock, as the musician stepped to the microphone to broadcast his call throughout the auditorium. “You’re looking for who? Chief Warrant Officer Giove? Sir, the phone’s for you.”

Giove’s wife, Erin, was calling to wish him a happy anniversary after 14 years of marriage. Moments later she emerged from backstage to greet her unsuspecting husband.

“It was an incredible surprise when Sgt. Holt stood up in the middle of the song,” Giove said. “I thought, ‘What in the world is he doing?’” So when he stood up, I started to get upset. But then when I saw the phone, I thought ‘my wife is calling.’ I had no idea she was backstage,” he added with a laugh. “She got me.”

The band’s two hour performance was punctuated by the resounding applause and standing ovation that followed.

“I thought it was a fabulous performance. I’ve never had the privilege to see anything like this before,” said C.C. Barber, Miss Oregon of 2009, who attended the concert. “The anniversary surprise brought tears to my eyes. That was really great.”

“Although there were a lot of moving parts, it came together pretty well, the crowd loved it. The crowd loves us, and we love them,” said Cpl. Aaron W. Brown, a French horn player for the Combat Center Band.

The audience, filled with veterans from as far back as World War II, smiled as they shook hands with members of the band and exchanged experiences after the show.

 “This really was most enjoyable. It made the day and the holiday,” said World War II and Korean War veteran Nick J. Ostreyko, a retired Marine major who was decked out in his Dress Blue uniform.

A woman in the crowd interrupted with laughter, “You know what’s most amazing? It still fits!” she said as she touched the 92-year-old Ostreyko’s uniform. He chuckled at the remark.

The Combat Center Band’s performance brought back fond memories of old friends, experiences from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and service stories of long ago to the veteran, he said.

“I miss, I really do miss it. They can recall me anytime they want.”

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms