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Minute Of History: July 12, 2012

The Band Plays On: The 30-Year Evolution Of The Farmingdale Village Pops

(Editor’s note: At the Village Pops Concert at the Farmingdale Village Green on Wednesday, June 27, Judy Sherman delivered this speech, a summary of the 30-year history of the Village Pops, the “Minute of History,” one in a series of speeches delivered at the Pops Concerts throughout the summer. Sherman is the principal flutist and founding member of Farmingdale’s beloved ensemble.)

It is hard to imagine that none of us were here back in 1982. Well, actually the Farmingdale Village Pops was here but just not in this part of this now beautifully redone park green and under this fabulous band gazebo. But just like it was back then, we gather here for exactly the same reason – to share our love of music and performance with a community looking to take a break and enjoy a wonderful evening together as the band plays on.

The village trustees asked Farmingdale High School band director Brad Demilo to put together the Farmingdale Village Pops in 1982. And so we began – a group of about 50 performers from accomplished high school students and recent graduates through seasoned adults and others eager to dust off their horns and give it a go.

So for the last 30 years homecoming day happens the last week of June where we all get to enjoy the cool great lawn of Farmingdale and listen as the band plays on.

One of my favorite stories to tell is about those early first days. You see if you turn around and look toward the Village Hall entrance you will see our original stage area. It was a brick walkway, crooked and bent from that large stately oak tree, and was hardly large enough to fit our group. Which was OK since we didn’t have a sound system, performance risers, or lights to take up space. Can you imagine – in the first years, the band played on… until — it got dark.

In those early days we relied upon performing music from the libraries of the Farmingdale School system. Now, through the graciousness of the Farmingdale Public Library and the village trustees, over these 30 years we now have quite a sizeable performance library. Ever see us sweat up here? Yes at times it is hot but there are those few and far between times that we feel the challenge of our limited rehearsal time. You see, in order to keep you coming back for our whole season, we have to perform new music selections each week. So no matter if we are a little off or if the arrangement of the music is a little off – and it’s hot, the bugs are on the attack, or the wind is howling from an approaching storm – somehow the band plays on.  

One of the earliest features we added in the first decade were themed concerts – particularly the World War II concert, greatly supported by one of our greatest promoters the VFW Post 516 and our wonderfully fun, delightful and unpredictable children’s concert. Showing our love of music to the next generation of performers is a joy. We just never know what will happen when we turn our attention to long time features like Boopsy the Clown leading the now infamous pots and pans parade. Someday that line of kids is going to march right off the green and down to Bollinger’s – who added their special raffle treats in the mid-’90s. But no worries while they are gone – the band will play on!

We have seen five mayors over these last 30 years but only one conductor. And while this group began mostly as an alumni band, we are now a full community group with members from all over Long Island. We have grown together in performance; we have shared great and sad times, and have had generations of the same family share the stage. Our families know how the Farmingdale Village Pops has enhanced our lives and how important it is that this band continues to play on.

There have been many, many loyal fans and supporters who have reached out to help our group by working to help us get some much needed items like lighting by the mid-’80s; a professional sound system by early-’90s; air conditioning to a hot and sweltering band room in the ’90s; ice cream and other treats by the end of the last century.  But the most fabulous addition is this entire redesign of our home on the Farmingdale Village Green beginning around 2004. If you haven’t taken the time to come up here please take a look at all the people who helped make this stage possible and have given their support to help the band to play on.

As I have said many times before it just would not be summer without the Village Pops. Families know the tradition of music on the green. Musicians gather each year to catch up and celebrate another summer in the park.   

But this moment of Farmingdale history is more about the celebration of what the Pops has truly become – a great symbol of the true sense of community spirit – something which has become more and more difficult to find in these tougher and more internet driven times.

On behalf of the Brad Demilo and the past and present members of the Farmingdale Village Pops we would like to thank both the Village of Farmingdale for keeping us on the program for three decades and our faithful audiences over the years. It is because of your support that – the band plays on!