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Pasco and Hernando community bands strike a chord

Local offering abound as concert season gets underway in the North Suncoast.
Henry Fletcher is entering his 47th season directing the Richey Concert Band. [Michele Miller]

NEW PORT RICHEY — A little before 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night, the din of musicians warming up their instruments filled the band room at Gulf High.

“I’m not sure how many more are coming,” said Henry Fletcher, who is entering his 47th season directing the Richey Concert Band. “We’ll start on time and see what happens.”

That’s pretty par for the course as concert season gets underway for local community bands, Fletcher said.

He started directing the band in 1973 with 19 musicians. Last week’s rehearsal had about 40 members, but that number will grow as snowbirds return for the winter and pick up their instruments.

A few minutes later, Fletcher was launching the band into a lively version of Get Happy, which Judy Garland made famous in the musical, Meet Me in St. Louis. After that came renditions of Memories of You, Sincerely and Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

It’s a multi-generational group, that ranges in age from 17 to 94. Members come from all walks of life to rehearse and perform for free. Each has their own story of why they are there.

Percussionist William White, 18, was a drum major during his junior and senior years at Hudson High. He simply enjoys being part of a group that makes music.

“Everyone’s just super supportive,” he said.

For fellow percussionist Corwyn Cortez, 73, it’s a way to keep busy. He’s been with the Richey Concert Band for two years, and plays in a local swing band and another band in Tampa.

“If it wasn’t for all the bands I’m playing in, I’d go crazy, he said.

Percussionists William White, 18, and Corwyn Cortez, 73, during a recent rehearsal of the Richey Concert Band. [Michele Miller]

For some, playing with the band is a way to keep honing their skills, no matter the age.

French horn player David Helfrich, 90, said he’s been with the band “on and off for about 35 years.” That was after careers teaching music in Pinellas County and psychology at then Pasco-Hernando Community College.

“I’ve been playing for 72 years,” he said with a grin. “Maybe someday I’ll master it.”

French horn player David Helfrich, 90, has been with the Richey Concert Band, “on and off for about 35 years,” after careers teaching music in Pinellas County and psychology at then Pasco Hernando Community College. [Michele Miller]

Helfrich and other volunteer musicians will be serving up their talent as the 2019-2020 community concert season gets underway.

Check out what’s on the horizon.

The Richey Concert Band starts its season Nov. 3 and offers four concerts at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. Concerts are at 2:30 p.m. $2 suggested donation. For information, go to

  • Concert schedule: Nov. 3, Dec. 1, Feb. 2, March 1.

Wesley Chapel Wind Ensemble starts it’s 12th year serving the east Pasco and North Tampa Bay communities. The local nonprofit performs at festivals and events throughout the year. Artistic director Ben Hrpka is a trombonist who plays with groups throughout the Tampa Bay area.

One concert is scheduled with more to come. Rehearsals are at 7 p.m. each Thursday. New members are welcome. For information, go to

  • Fall concert: 1:30 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Meadow Point III Clubhouse, 1500 Meadow Point Boulevard, Wesley Chapel.

The Richey Community Orchestra, led by conductor Stephen P. Brown, offers six concerts during a season that starts in November and ends with a Mother’s Day Dinner Concert in May. Concerts are at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge, 11646 Town Center Road in New Port Richey. Dinner concerts, which tend to sell out early, are held at Spartan Manor, 6121 Massachusetts Ave., New Port Richey. Tickets are available online or from the RCO Box Office, 6827 Amberjack Lane, Hudson, Fl. 34667. Sponsorships are available. For information, go to or call (727) 919-3866.

  • The Music of Rodgers and Hammerstein II, 3 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge. Featured selections from South Pacific, Oklahoma and State Fair. The Richey Commuity Chorus will be featured in selections from The Sound of Music, The King and I, Cinderella and Carousel. $18 open seating.
  • Holiday Pops Dinner Concert Dec. 8 at Spartan Manor. Featured guest performers John and Mary K. Wilson. Cocktails start at 1 p.m. (cash bar). Dinner is served at 1:30 p.m. Show starts at 3 p.m. $45 reserved seating.
  • Music from the Movies, 3 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge. This concert celebrates the 88th birthday of composer John Williams. Selections from Schindler’s List, Star Wars, Raiders March, Superman and Jurassic Park. $18 open seating.
  • Frank & Ella Dinner Concert, March 15 at Spartan Manor. This nod to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald features guest soloists Tom Tiratto and Katt Hefner performing Summer Wind and Come Fly With Me. Orchestra highlights pay tribute to Big Bands with In the Mood, April in Paris, and Sophisticated Lady. Cocktails start at 1 p.m. (cash bar). Dinner is served at $1:30 p.m. Show is at 3 p.m. $45 reserved seating.
  • The Roaring 20′s, 3 p.m. April 20 at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge. Guest soloist is award-winning pianist Martin Preston. The Richey Community Chorus also performs. Orchestra selections include tunes from Show Boat. $18 open seating.
  • Ballads Blues & Broadway, Mother’s Day Dinner Concert, May 10. Features Jimmy Ferraro and Dee Etta Rowe singing Broadway tunes. Orchestra selections include songs from Gypsy and other Broadway hits. Cocktails start at 1:30 p.m. (cash bar). Dinner is at 1:30 p.m. Show is at 3 p.m. $45 reserved seating.

The Dade City Symphony is a nonprofit musical entity made up of volunteer musicians from Dade City, Zephyrhills and the surrounding areas. Founder Kathy McKienzie started the group in 2010 as a way to bring all genres of orchestral music to the Dade City community. McKienzie, Jean McNary and Kathi Boyle serve as directors. There are two remaining concerts this season. Concerts are free and are held at the Pasco Middle School auditorium, 13925 14th St., Dade City. For information, go to

  • Holiday Concert, 7 p.m. Dec. 14. Guest artist is soprano Jennifer Regal Ferguson.
  • Spring Concert, 7 p.m. April 4.

The Hernando Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 37th season with concerts in December, February and April. Conductor is Michele Diluzio, who was one of 13 musicians to form the Hernando Symphony Orchestra in 1982. All concerts are at the Central High School Theater, 14075 Ken Austin Parkway, Brooksville. Season tickets are $45 per adult. General admission is $18 for adults; $5 for students ages 5-17. Group tickets available. For information and tickets, go to

  • Sounds of the Season, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21 and 2 p.m. Dec. 22. Featured selections include Angels Sing, Feliz Navidad, Hanukkah Dance, C’est Noel and Deck the Halls with Chips and Salsa.
  • Spectrum, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22 and 2 p.m. Feb. 23. Featured selections include Star Wars Saga, Stevie Wonder in Concert, Curtain Call and The Impossible Dream.
  • Kaleidoscope, 7:30 p.m. April 25 and 2 p.m. April 26. Selections include Beyond the Higher Skies, Blue Mambo, Chariots of Fire and International Dixieland.
  • The symphony is scheduled to perform at the Art in the Park Festival on March 14 at Tom Varn Park in Brooksville. This is not part of the regular season concert schedule.

The Suncoast Bronze Ringers is a community handbell choir formed in 2012. The group also is a member of the Area 4 of Handbell Musicians of America. Michael Lamb, who has been a handbell director and ringer since 1982, recently came on as the new music director. Free admission/donations accepted. For information, go to

Christmas Concerts:

  • 3 p.m. Dec. 1 at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 4651 Little Road, New Port Richey.
  • 3 p.m. Dec. 8 at Hope Lutheran Church, 12321 Canton Ave., Hudson.