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Cumberland Winds, a Clarksville Treasure

Written by Dr. Dewey Browder
APSU History Professor

CommentaryClarksville, TN – There is a community treasure here in Clarksville that gets too little credit but continues to entertain and inspire over and over again, year after year. That community treasure is the Cumberland Winds.

This non-profit organization presents a variety of ensembles that include a concert band, the Jazz Project (big band), brass and woodwind quintets, horn quartet, jazz combo, a Dixie band, and a German band. These musicians offer everything from concerts to solo performances that please all ages and celebrate as the occasion demands.

Their recent “Salute to Veterans” themed concert over the Veterans Day weekend honored those who served with music that was wonderful, inspiring, and patriotic. The First Baptist Church on Commerce Street and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Sango hosted the events on 12th and 13th November respectively.

These performances marked the end of the Cumberland Winds’ concert season for the year even though smaller events featuring different ensembles are still scheduled up to and including Christmas Eve.

Prior to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, they averaged sixty performances per year. They offered thirty-five events in 2021, and they expect to provide more free entertainment in 2022. When they take the stage, they clearly are an integral part of our community. This quality is evident when one sees them perform big band favorites with the Jazz Project at Dunbar Cave, then you might see them at the Roxy Regional Theatre performing a Black History Recital, to a formal concert with a film score theme, traditional marches, and songs from the American Songbook. They offer neighborly professionalism that fits Clarksville perfectly.

The Jazz Project performed its first concert in 2008, and the Cumberland Winds Concert Band presented its first concert in 2010. They added ensembles when people requested more diverse genres at different events. Mike Ritter, the musical director, patiently and competently shepherded the Project to the point he now has approximately 120 performers he can call on.

There are about 50 regulars who make up the concert band and the Jazz Project. The Cumberland Winds is a 501(c)3 tax-free entity, and thus most of their public performances are free and open to the public. Funding is provided by private and business donations along with grants from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Clarksville-Montgomery County Arts and Heritage Development Council.

Musical Director Mike Ritter spent a career in the U.S. Army where he performed in and conducted army bands in far-away places such as Honolulu, Hawaii; Mosul, Iraq; and Heidelberg, Germany. His final assignment was as the Commander/Bandmaster of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Band at Fort Campbell. Ritter is not the only military veteran in the Cumberland Winds. Indeed, there are more than twenty who served in military bands. Among those veterans is the primary vocalist, Charlie King, who was a pilot in the 160th Special Operations Air Regiment based on Fort Campbell Kentucky.

Performances are often highlighted by brief narratives on the piece performed, the composer, and the relevant historical events related to the composition. Yvonne Kendall, principal flutist and soloist, and Frank Moure, trumpet player and Dixie band leader, handle these tasks with ease. The members, when not performing with the Cumberland Winds follow a variety of careers including professors, music teachers, and professional musicians. Their love of playing is the common denominator.

The schedule of performances can be found at the Cumberland Winds website cumberlandwinds.org and on their Facebook page and Group page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cumberland-Winds/130692436959684, https://www.facebook.com/groups/4613135525411387

If you wish to contribute to Cumberland Winds you can do so by sending a check payable to Cumberland Winds, 2180 Crestwood Dr.ive, Clarksville, TN, 37043.


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