Wayne Hoey will be playing his heart out again to celebrate the July Fourth holiday tonight.
As part of a local big-band ensemble that will perform at Augusta Riverwalk, the All That Jazz saxophonist will be returning to a musical Independence Day tradition set during the 20-plus years he spent in the U.S. Army, playing patriotic tunes.
"Every Fourth of July, I was someplace, playing the 1812 Overture," he said. "It might be in Korea or in Japan or someplace in the United States, but we were playing to celebrate Independence Day."
The stirring music -- and the feelings it invoked -- never got old.
"Absolutely not. How can you feel less patriotic one year than you did the year before?"
For the 40-something baby boomer, patriotism was part of the life he lived and the air he breathed growing up in the post-Word War II era in Lynn, Mass., just hours away from Boston -- one of the cradles of American democracy.
Fascism was conquered, the United States was victorious, and the reminders of hard-won freedom were a part of everyday life.
"I think it's always been there for me. My uncles were all in the Army during World War II; I had lots of relatives in the military, so there were always uniforms around. One uncle was the commander for an American Legion post."
It left a lasting impression on Mr. Hoey, who retired from the Army in 1993 and made his home in Augusta after serving at Fort Gordon. The symbols of the United States and its ideals still stir the same pride and devotion planted during boyhood and stirred by his time playing music in the service.
"The flag is such a strong symbol, how can it not make you stand upright when you see it?" he asked.
He admits concern that July Fourth has become a day about picnics and fun and may be losing its deeper meaning. And he points to the growing cynicism of the 1990s as one cause.
"All of the holidays have gotten too commercial. I have a problem when stores are putting up Christmas decorations before Columbus Day. This weekend is a time to sit back and reflect on the meaning of the Fourth of July and what it stands for.
"When I was growing up -- that was a different era. With the instant media we have today, when bad news happens on the other side of the world, we know about it live. Bad news is in your face all the time. The generation of kids growing up today need to feel the patriotism we had before."
So after a few years of hiatus, Mr. Hoey will be picking up the saxophone again to play this Independence Day with Sophisticated Swing, performing the big-band music that World War II soldiers danced to and that has recently become a common bond between the generations with its popular resurgence.
"We just finished playing the June Jazz Candlelight Concert series, and we'd have older folks from Brandon Wilde dancing right next to these teen-agers. To have that mix, it just does something to you."
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