When MUCS Daniel Bethel leads Navy Band Great Lakes' Ceremonial Band on July 4, it will be a first.
Bethel, a tuba player from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has conducted bands before but not at at the Naval Station Great Lakes' 4th of July Celebration, which will attract 15,000 or more people. The 22-piece band's performance requires precision because it will synchronize part of John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" with the spectacular fireworks show that ends the festival.
"A conductor has to keep in mind that the members of his band will determine the quality of the marches he will play," Bethel said. "You also have to be ready for the crowd's reaction for the piece we are playing with the fireworks. There will be a lot of 'ohs' and 'ahs' when the crowd reacts."
Navy Band Great Lakes will headline the main stage entertainment at 8:30 p.m. It will be preceeded at 6:30 p.m. by Bella Cain, a country top 40 band from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Earlier in the Day, Weird Science, a Wisconsin-based 1980s cover band will start the main stage shows at 3 p.m., followed by acclaimed country singer Natalie Stovall at 4:45 p.m.
But once the modern country sound is finished, Bethel looks forward to sharing his musical passion with the audience. The son of Salvation Army members, he was brought up on the British Brass music, European composers and the sounds of American Wind Ensemble. Those genres influences will be evident in the program of patriotic music.
And this is a special performance for Bethel because he plans to retire from the Navy in November. Bethel started his career with Navy Band Great Lakes in April 1996. So he is bookending his career with this second stint on the Great Lakes band.
"I think people will see how versatile our band members are," he said. "We have several groups that can play all types of music. But I'm looking forward to sharing 'old school' music with the audience."
Among the versatile musicians playing July 4 will be MU2 Mercer Smith from Atlanta, Georgia. A bass guitarist for the installation's rock band Horizon, he will be part of the auxiliary percussion section. Smith is looking forward to this Independence Day gig, playing in front of an American crowd.
"I played on Fourth of July in Naples, Italy and it was a chance to show people how important the holiday is to us," he said. "I know that a lot of people here will enjoy the music. To play the music of John Philip Sousa for the audience at this base, that is a huge deal. This is the way we represent the Navy and the nation in a musical way and it is an important job."
A lieutenant commander in the Navy, Sousa served as bandmaster at Great Lakes in 1917 at the behest of then-base commandant Capt. William Moffett.
It is with that verve and dedication Navy Band Great Lakes' ceremonial band will take to the stage for the culmination of the two-day festival. For Bethel, it may be one of those events that (brings) memories of a lifetime.
"I've done a lot because of the Navy," he said. "My family is able to have this great opportunity because of the Navy. I have the chance to share this great music that I enjoy because I am in the Navy."
Bethel's first should be endearing for all who attend.