Memorial Day 2018 Celebrating state’s musical roots
Washington, D.C., has its National Memorial Day Parade, Philadelphia marks the occasion with Penn’s Landing Waterfront Day, and in 2018 for the first time, Northeast Pennsylvania will observe the holiday with the “The Great Allentown Memorial Day Celebration” on May 27 and 28 at the historic Allentown Fairgrounds.
The plans for the annual event were announced at a news conference Aug. 21 by Jeffrey Tapler, president of the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Music Preservation Society (PAMPS), sponsor of the celebration, and Alex Meixner, Grammy Award nominee and nationally acclaimed musician, performer, bandleader, educator and leading advocate of polka music.
Tapler said the mission of the annual celebration will be twofold: to promote and preserve the state’s rich musical heritage and cultural history, and to remember and honor through traditional Pennsylvania music, culture and arts, the men and women who have served and died in the U.S. military.
Meixner, who will serve as master of ceremonies for the 2018 event, is a recognized ambassador for polka music, helping revitalize interest in the genre from coast to coast through performances and educational workshops in schools. Co-founder and a driving force behind the Pennsylvania Music Preservation Society, Meixner said Allentown, as the state’s third largest city, is perfectly positioned to draw regionally for a national caliber Memorial Day celebration.
“The city has strong German/Austria roots and immigrant traditions, it has an outstanding arts infrastructure, it houses one of the fastest growing young Latino communities in the nation, it boasts the country’s oldest civilian band, and it is home to the state’s third largest school district, which is a perfect launching for my vision of music preservation through education.”
After performing music on the accordion, trumpet and Alp horn, Meixner said Mariachi bands represented a melding of accordion and trumpet traditions. “Music provides a way to build bridges among different cultures.”
Allentown businesswoman and former national CEO Siobhan “Sam” Bennett, was introduced at the news conference as PAMPS’s first chief executive officer and chairman of the board. She explained that a major part of the regional Memorial Day Celebration will focus on veterans, noting there are 60,000 veterans living in the Lehigh Valley, and Pennsylvania has the fourth largest number of veterans’ organizations in the United States.
“We look forward to honoring our veterans and their families – both those who have fallen and those still with us – and assisting those nonprofits that serve them.” She said veteran’s groups can contact PAMPS for free exhibition opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meixner said he is still working on the performance schedule for next year, which will incorporate German traditions, as well as music from popular groups from the region, and different cultural centers. “We also want types of music that are a cross section of all generations.” He emphasized that music groups will be contracted to perform, but also to do clinics and workshops, as part of the educational component.
The Great Allentown Memorial Day Celebration will be unique, according to Bennett, because of its planned music education programs and fellowships, partnerships with veterans groups and financial support of organizations that help veterans through the arts. “It will be an important addition to, but not a substitute for all the other wonderful cultural initiatives that are underway in the region.
“Our goal is to under promise and overachieve.”