Family to perform march in honor of late band leader's 100th birthday

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The late Ed George was a community band director for some 35 years. But he also took time to share his love of music with his family, some of whom carved out notable music careers as a result of his influence. 

Now members of Mr. George's family — sons Jim and Mark George and nephew Frank George — will perform ''Defenders of Liberty,'' a march, with South Allegheny High School Band at 7 p.m. April 10. The performance will be in honor of what would have been Ed George's 100th birthday this summer and was conceived by Mr. George's great-niece.

Ed George became an original member of the Sons of Italy Lodge 941 Fiesta Band of Glassport at age 13 in 1927. The band was one of numerous musical groups nationwide created by Italian immigrants to preserve and promote the music and traditions of their homeland.

Mr. George, a clarinetist and saxophonist, once played with the Army Air Force Band and led an 18-piece swing band that toured the war zones in Europe.

But back at home following World War II, the Glassport band's once-prominent place in the community diminished. In 1959, Mr. George reorganized the band, serving as its director until the mid-1990s. He died in 1997; the band no longer exists.

The South Allegheny concert will be in the high school auditorium, 2743 Washington Blvd., Liberty. It is open to the public.

The march, which was frequently performed by the Glassport band under the leadership of Ed George, will conclude the high school concert season. The idea for the commemoration was that of the band's director, Jessica Humanic, Ed George's great-great niece.

''I told Jim [George] when he visited last summer that I didn't think my students knew anything about the Glassport band unless their families were involved.

''I thought it would be great to do and teach the impact music can have on a community,'' Miss Humanic said.

For Ed George's family, that impact extended into the maestro's home.

Jim George, 62, is a professional clarinetist with music degrees from Duquesne University.

''When I was young, every Sunday [my father] would sit at the dining room table and play the clarinet and Italian songs from his youth, and I would sit on the floor and watch him.

''He had an old clarinet he would show me and say that one day it would be mine.

''He taught me until fifth grade, but he played duets with me his whole life,'' said Jim George of El Cajon, Calif.

Mark George, 53, president and CEO of the Music Institute of Chicago, said his earliest memory is being surrounded by music.

''[My father] had a day job as a plumber for the industrial contractor Sauer Inc.,but every night he made music. As a young guy I couldn't wait to jump in and do it myself,'' he said.

Frank George, 84, of West Hempstead, N.Y., is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, and a retired trumpet player.

''He introduced me to the trumpet,'' he said of his uncle.

Mark George said he hopes that through the Georges' performance with the band, the student musicians will acquire an appreciation of music as a connector.

''I hope they see the generations and not just the notes on the page,'' he said.

Concert admission is $2 for adults, $1 for students and seniors.

Margaret Smykla, freelance writer:

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