In honor of Lancaster's 175th birthday next year, the town's 62-year-old outdoor summer band is raising money for a musical gift: an arch-covered stage and band shell.
"I just think it's about time that we have a home for our band," said Town Supervisor Robert Giza, who would like to see a performance in the new band shell before the end of the 2008 season. "I think it's a nice birthday present to the town."
Lancaster musicians and music teachers are working to raise money to pay for the $200,000 project -- discussed since 2005 -- which is expected to start construction in the spring. So far, there is $50,000 from band supporters and a state grant.
Fundraising includes the sale of $100 bricks -- containing the names of the donors -- for a band shell walkway and a Nov. 20 recital by teachers in the Lancaster school district. They will perform for donations at 7 p.m. in Lancaster Middle School. The Lancaster Industrial Development Agency is also considering a request for $50,000 to $75,000.
"No matter what, we're going to start Phase One of construction," band music director Richard Goss said of the plan to pour concrete in the spring.
The Erie County budget crisis of 2005 led the Lancaster Town Band to seek a more secure home. It was a popular move. In the last three summers that the band has performed Tuesday evenings near the Senior Center and on the grass behind the Oxford Street Lancaster Youth Bureau, crowds have grown from several hundred to as many as 1,000.
"It's in a neighborhood, so people walk," said Goss, who is also a music teacher and department chairman at Lancaster High School. While many local towns have bands and band shells, Lancaster's players are an unusual mix, he said. About half the performers are adults looking for opportunities to perform, about 30 percent are college students, and 20 percent are in high school.
"It's truly a community band of all ages," Goss said.
To commemorate the band's tradition, the band shell's name has been chosen in tribute to a beloved local band leader and music teacher, now deceased: Richard Pascucci Memorial Band Shell. Pascucci died in 2002 after a 36-year career as a music teacher and band director in Lancaster schools.
"He got me interested in music," Joseph Casimino said of Pascucci's encouragement that he play percussion. Casimino, who had an eye injury, couldn't play sports. Music became an alternative that shaped his life.
Now Casimino is a retired music director of Lancaster High School and a regular snare drum player in the Lancaster band. He is grateful to Pascucci, and the town, for the chance to practice his craft before enthusiastic local audiences.
"They love music in Lancaster," he said.