By Pamela Dozois

Contributing Writer

The Santa Ynez Valley Wind Ensemble is a local treasure, not only for those who want to hear beautiful music but for those who want to play it.

The ensemble offers musicians the opportunity to perform for the public multiple times each year. Presently it is made up of 30 musicians under the direction of Maestra Sharon Jeskey, formerly music director at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School and now the music director at San Luis Obispo High School.

“Our mission is to provide concerts to the public, free of charge. We are an all-volunteer group of musicians who donate our time and talents purely for the love of music,” said percussionist Sid Goldstien.

“The Valley Wind Ensemble is looking to recruit new members for its fall season. The new season includes a concert at St. Mark’s-In-The-Valley Episcopal Church, a holiday concert at the Atterdag Village of Solvang, and participation in the Julefest celebration in the Solvang Park Gazebo,” said David Pedersen, publicist for the ensemble and a volunteer musician who plays the euphonium (which resembles a small tuba).

“No audition is necessary, but some playing experience is needed. We play a wide spectrum of musical genres, from classical to pop. We are a group that provides a chance for musicians to dust off their old wind instruments and join us for some music-making,” Pedersen added.

During the year the ensemble performs a spring concert at Mission Santa Inez and gazebo concerts at Solvang Park in early June, the Fourth of July, and Yulefest. It also performs for the local Memorial Day ceremony, and in the fall it has a concert at St. Mark’s in Los Olivos. It also performs at the Atterdag Village retirement community once or twice a year.

According to Pedersen, the Valley Wind Ensemble follows a long history of concert band music in the Santa Ynez Valley dating back to the early 1900s. The high school music programs date to the early days of the school in the 1940s.

The Lions Club of the Santa Ynez Valley sponsored a concert band of about 15 musicians around 1955. In 1960, local musicians Herb Swanson and Arlen “Bo” Pedersen started the Solvang Village Band, a group that still plays on the Carlsberg Beer Wagon during Danish Days.

In 1991 Charlie Disparte started the Solvang Danish Garde Band and conducted it for two years. This band became the Valley Wind Ensemble in 1993, an all-wind ensemble with one percussionist, under the leadership of Carl Thompson and then Jeskey.

The Valley Wind Ensemble performed for the Danish Brotherhood and Sisterhood Convention and for the Prince Consort of Denmark when he visited Solvang for the 100th anniversary of the Danish colony’s founding.

Occasionally the ensemble attends band festivals and has performed at Santa Barbara City College.

“Performing at these festivals (open to bands around the state) gives us an opportunity to perform before judges who critique the performance, and it gives us a chance to grow as an ensemble,” Goldstien said.

The Valley Wind Ensemble recently acquired its 501(c)3 status, so it is officially a member-supported nonprofit organization.

“We survive on donations and grants. Our director is the only paid member of our group,” said Goldstien. “We wish to thank the Santa Ynez Valley Foundation, the city of Solvang, and the Santa Barbara Foundation for their financial support along with many individual donors. There are a lot of generous people in the valley. That’s what keeps us afloat.”

“While we enjoy playing, part of what we want is to give back to the community by providing these free concerts,” said Pedersen. “I consider the Valley Wind Ensemble not just a group of fellow musicians but as good friends.”

“It’s true, it’s not just playing music that’s fulfilling, it’s about being a part of a group. There’s a social aspect involved. It enhances personal development, and having a trained musician as a director provides the basis for which to grow as a musician,” Goldstien added.

“Most of us learned to play our instruments at a young age. Some have continued playing in groups while others have discontinued for many years, but because of their love of music they want to come back to it. What makes this particular ensemble a unique group is that it’s low key and makes the musicians, regardless of their expertise, feel very comfortable. There is no drama, just camaraderie.  Everyone is there because they love music,” said Goldstien. “As long as you can play and read music, we’d love to have you. We welcome high school students to join the group as well.”

Rehearsals are held at 7 p.m. every Thursday in the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School Band Room.

The Valley Wind Ensemble will be performing a concert at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, at St.-Marks-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church in Los Olivos.

For more information, call 805-403-7732 or visit