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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, December 5, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesU. S. Navy Band to Celebrate Anniversary of Native Son

U. S. Navy Band to Celebrate Anniversary of Native Son

A contingent of the prestigious U.S. Navy Band is visiting St. Thomas with a series of performances and workshops next week in celebration of the 120th anniversary of the life of native son, Bandmaster Alton Adams Sr.

The first African-American U. S. Navy Bandmaster, Adams was honored posthumously in January this year in a ceremony at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He was recognized in a program of "Navy Pioneers: A History of African-Americans in the Navy Music Program."

The revered Adams is an integral part of the musical and educational fabric of the territory. Well known to every Virgin Islander, especially for the "Virgin Islands March," Adams was not only bandmaster and composer, he was a journalist, founder of the V.I. Press Corps, writer for several music periodicals, hotelier, co-founder of the first local hotel association, founder of the local Red Cross, and creator of the first public school music curriculum.

During the four-day visit, from Monday through Friday, the band ensemble will present school workshops, presentations, and community forums. A highlight of the visit is a special recital – "Navy Pioneers: a History of African Americans in Navy Music" – from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School Auditorium. The recital is free to the public.

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Presented by International Capital and Management Company, Cornel Williams, company president, said of the performance, "Through the use of live music, lecture, and multimedia, members of the band will chronicle the history of racial integration in the Navy and the social changes that affected its policies from the 1730s to the present day."

"The recital also highlights the contributions of other African American pioneers in Navy music who served the Navy with honor, courage, and commitment,” Williams said. “The mark Alton Adams has made on Navy music from both a musical and historical context cannot be understated."

"We are very excited to carry the Navy legacy of Alton Adams back to the Virgin Islands on this Anniversary," said Senior Chief Musician Mike Bayes in a release. "For Navy music, it has been 120 years; with the arrival of Mr. Adams a new professionalism towards Navy music began."

"Many people in the Virgin Islands know of Alton Adams and the importance of his work,” Bayes said. “However, with the perspective of the larger picture, his life and his contributions to music and society are brought into a much larger scope."

Bayes described the band’s island activities, including workshops and master classes at several local schools, as well as informative presentations and performances. The musicians will be working in large and small group settings with both private and public school students.

"They will instruct the students on the finer points of ensemble performance and individual practice," Bayes said. "The band is looking forward to this opportunity to reach out to young musicians, and to celebrate the life and influence of one of Navy music’s iconic bandmasters."

He added in the release, "To me, some of the most magical music comes from children. I think Mr. Adams knew that and that is why he worked so hard to make music education a reality in the Virgin Islands — The heartbeat of music is found in our youth."

Presentations will be given at Antilles School on Monday at Prior-Jollek Hall from 10:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. with Antilles students and 54 students from other St. Thomas-based private schools. Later Monday, The Community Forum will feature Virgins Islands-based family members of past band members, friends, and other historians at the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts from 2 to 4 p. m. All the performances are free to the public.

Other supporters of the U.S. Navy Band Ensemble visit include: the American Legion, Innovative Communications, the National Guard, Banco Popular, Raymond La Motta, Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, APEX Construction, the Alton Adams Sr. Trust, Alton Adams Jr. and The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.

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