The July 4th holiday kicks off to an early-morning start Thursday when the Ceremonial Brass, the United States Air Force Band from Washington, D.C., makes its 15th appearance on NBC-TV’s “Today Show.” Wednesday night, the Air Force Band performs at Citi Field in Flushing, N.Y., when the New York Mets play the Arizona Diamondbacks. Heading the band at both locations will be Chief Master Sgt. Edward J. Teleky, drum major and flight chief. Teleky and his wife, Heidi, were in Allentown last month when son, Tony, a member of the Cadets2 Drum Corps, performed at the YEAllentown Benefit Concert at Miller Symphony Hall.

For those unfamiliar with YEA!, it stands for Youth Education in the Arts and is a nonprofit 501 (c)3 organization based in downtown Allentown. Its mission is dedicated to “supporting the development of young people into magnificent human beings through the performing arts.” Its programs consist of a professional drum and bugle corps, The Cadets, Cadets 2, Xcape Dance Company, and a drum line known as the Designated Hitters who perform at Lehigh Valley IronPigs baseball games at Coca-Cola Park.

According to George Hopkins, CEO of Youth Education in the Arts, the organization strives to keep the performing arts alive in the community and provide all children, no matter what age, race or background, the opportunity to find their passion through dance and music.

In meeting Teleky and Heidi at a reception held at the Cosmopolitan prior to the benefit concert, I learned that they make weekend trips to Allentown from the D.C. area so Tony can perform with the Cadets2, a weekend-only, regional-based program that allows those between the ages of 16 and 25 to have a Cadet-quality experience. Tony is now a senior at North Point High School in Waldorf, Md., where he is drum line captain for its marching band.

“YEA! is an amazing organization,” Teleky said. “For us, it’s a commitment in driving up to Allentown so often, but there’s not another organization like it in the country. It’s really a gem and one that’s right in your backyard.”

Last November, Tony and his dad had the opportunity to perform in the 86th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. It was Tony’s second appearance on snare drum as a Maryland representative in Macy’s All-American Marching Band, and the first appearance for his dad and the Air Force Band.

A native of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., and a Juilliard graduate, Teleky began his career in the Air Force in 1987. Prior, he was a show designer, musical arranger instructor and clinician for top drum and bugle corps and high school marching bands including the Santa Clara Vanguard, San Francisco Renegades, Scrapers of Japan, Sunrisers, Skyliners and Bayonne Bridgemen.

“Because of our key duties in Washington, it is quite rare for us to have the opportunity to leave the area,” Teleky said of Thursday’s television appearance. He added that the performance is “truly one of the highlights of the year for all of our personnel because we have the opportunity to perform on the world stage for some 17 million viewers on our nation’s birthday representing our U.S. military. It is the greatest honor to be able to represent all the men and women of the armed forces protecting our freedom.”

Images: U.S. Air Force Ceremonial Brass

As a member of the Air Force Band, Teleky has participated in more than 6,000 ceremonies before the world’s highest officials at the White House, Pentagon, Joint Base Andrews and Arlington National Cemetery. He has performed at some of the nation’s most historic events such as White House Arrivals for 36 heads of state including the Queen of England, Mikhail Gorbachov, Pope Paul, the state funerals for Presidents Reagan, Ford and Nixon, and seven presidential inaugurations.

“Our most solemn and honored duty is the performance of military honors for our fallen heroes at Arlington National Cemetery, where we perform more than 800 funerals each year in all weather conditions,” Teleky said. “This is a key part of our mission, giving families final closure.”

FOOTNOTE: For a chance to see drum corps in action, the Tour of Champions is coming to J. Birney Crum Stadium in Allentown on Sun., Aug. 4, at 7 p.m., featuring The Cadets, Blue Devils, Carolina Crown, Phantom Regiment, Santa Clara Vanguard, Bluecoats, and The Cavaliers.

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Locally, July 4th kicks off a four-day weekend of community celebrations and patriotic music in our parks.

Thursday, Allentown marks our nation’s independence with a “Star-Spangled Celebration” street festival, a first-time event to be held outside of J. Birney Crum Stadium along Linden Street (Parkway Boulevard) and Cedar Beach Park. Gates to the stadium will open at 4:30 p.m.

The event runs from 4 to 10 p.m., with skydivers from the Lehigh Valley Parachute Team, Allentown Police Department K-9 Unit demonstration, face painting, children’s rides, interactive activities, boomerang throwing demonstrations, a Patriotic Pet Parade, and food offerings. Live music is on tap by School of Rock, the Marine Band of Allentown, Jake Kaligis & the New Constitution, BC & Company, and the Toga Party Band, plus an appearance by Allentown’s iconic ambassador, Pip the Mouse. The evening will culminate with a fireworks show presented by Celebration Fireworks Inc., of Kutztown.

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Music swells the air in Berks County on Thursday at 8 p.m., when the Reading Symphony Orchestra (RSO) with Conductor Andrew Constantine presents a free “Star-Spangled Spectacular” at FirstEnergy Stadium, followed by a fireworks display. Concert highlights include “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “Fanfare for the Common Man,” “1812 Overture,” “American Salute,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Also featured will be a solo by RSO Concertmaster, Christopher Collins Lee, and guest performances by Tammy Black and Jeremy Galyon.

The RSO is participating in Orchestras Feeding America; bring along a canned good or nonperishable food items to benefit the Greater Berks Food Bank.

Free tickets will be available at the stadium; gates open at 6 p.m. Rain date is Friday.

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Beginning Wednesday night and throughout the weekend, area parks will provide the perfect backdrop for music by community bands, including:

  • Macungie Band: “Old-Fashioned Fourth of July Concert,” 11:30 a.m., Macungie Memorial Park, N. Poplar St., Macungie; (Also Sunday, 7:30 p.m., at West Park, 16th and Turner Sts., Allentown).
  • Pioneer Band of Allentown: “Patriotic Favorites,” 7:30 tonight, West Park; also 6 p.m. tomorrow, Emmaus Community Park, Shimerville Road, Emmaus (Also Friday, 7:30 p.m., at the Bethlehem Rose Garden, Eighth Ave. and Union Blvd.).
  • Bethlehem Municipal Band: tomorrow, 7 p.m., City Center Plaza, Church St., Bethlehem.
  • Allentown Band: “An American Salute,” 8 p.m. tomorrow, with Evelyn Stewart, soprano and Chet Brown, baritone, SteelStacks Arts Campus, Levitt Pavilion at ArtsQuest Center, Bethlehem, followed by fireworks; (Also “Sousa Concert,” Friday, 7:30 p.m., West Park; and Saturday,11 a.m., Allentown Rose Garden, Parkway Blvd., and 7 p.m. Saturday at Arts Park, Fifth and Linden Sts., Allentown.