Spirit of Sousa lives on with Lake Oswego Millennium Concert Band

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The clarinet section of the Millennium Band is shown hard at work. They are, from the left, Kristin Cywinski, Maureen Van Dyke, Alan Mehrwein and Jay Dudley. The band's next big concert is Sunday in Lakeridge High School's   - The bandmaster himself, Dale Cleland. The Lake Oswego Millennium Concert Band has added the Sudler Silver Scroll to its laurels.

The honor is given by the John Philip Sousa Foundation and it goes to a community band that best exemplifies the virtues of the March King himself. Nothing can rouse a community like a good community band and that is what the LOMCB does in Lake Oswego.

To celebrate this achievement, the band will perform a concert Feb. 23 at Lakeridge High School Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Go early or you won’t get a seat.

“We were the 43rd band to receive this award,” said Dale Cleland, the band’s director for its entire existence. “It goes to an elite group of bands. Only five bands on the West Coast have received this honor.”

There are thousands of community orchestras across the nation, and it takes something special to win the Sudler Silver Scroll. The quest started last year when Cleland and company played a concert in the San Francisco Bay area at the National Association of Concert Bands. Afterward, an impressed audience member told Cleland, “You need to apply for the Sudler Award.”

The application took a lot of work, but Cleland was up to the challenge. He had to prepare 15 CDs of band performances to send to the panel of judges, gather press clippings, recommendations from regional and national band directors and fill out lots of paperwork. The good news came last November when Cleland was invited to the award ceremony in Chicago. Cleland received a shiny pin on this occasion, but the entire band will receive a plaque Feb. 23.

The LO Millennium Concert Band has given countless concerts since it formed 15 years ago, but originally it was only supposed to play once — at the Lake Oswego Millennium celebration in 1999. Cyndi Glazer, coordinator of programs and volunteer services of the Lake Oswego Library, was helping the late Bob Bigelow, former publisher of the Review, plan for activities that would involve the entire Lake Oswego community. Her inspirations included an ice cream social, pet parade and an all-Lake Oswego choir. Also a band concert.

“I threw that idea out there because a woman who worked for me in Portland was always talking about playing the clarinet for a concert band,” Glazer said. “I thought, ‘Why not get a community band together?’”

Glazer took her bright idea to a breakfast meeting of Lake Oswego community leaders and afterward a fellow walked up to her and asked, “Do you have a leader yet?” When she said no, the man said, “I’ll do it.”

“It was Dale Cleland,” Glazer said. “Little did I know he would turn out to be the perfect person for the job. That first year he got 50 musicians together.”

Of course, the band gave a blockbuster concert at the millennium celebration. But the musicians were not ready to fade away after one performance.

“We thought, ‘Why not keep doing this?’” Cleland said. “We’re having too much fun to quit. This has snowballed beyond anyone’s expectations. We play a lot of music for a lot of people.”

The LOMCB averages between 500 to 600 audience members a performance, often filling up Lakeridge’s auditorium and it’s a must-see attraction at the Lake Oswego Fourth of July celebration, always attracting more than 1,000 patriotic music lovers. The band also branches out with a brass ensemble, a big dance band and plays venues at retirement homes, parties and much more. The band now has more than 70 members.

“I spend 20 hours a week doing band stuff,” said Cleland, who was formerly a band director in Lake Oswego schools. “We practice every Sunday night in the Lakeridge High band room.”

There is no end in sight for the band too good to disband.

“I couldn’t be prouder about their honor,” Glazer said. “Dale puts so much time, energy and love into this band. I’ve had band members tell me, ‘I live to play for those concerts.’”

The Feb. 23 concert will include two Sousa marches, including “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Other numbers will include music from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” the rock and roll musical “Grease,” a medley “Salute to Bob Hope,” and more.

Cliff Newell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 105.

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