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Marine band says goodbye

Officer in Charge CWO3 Christian Flores, left, conducts the Albany Marine Band during its “Thanks for the Memories” final performance Tuesday night at the Albany Municipal Auditorium.

Officer in Charge CWO3 Christian Flores, left, conducts the Albany Marine Band during its “Thanks for the Memories” final performance Tuesday night at the Albany Municipal Auditorium.

ALBANY -- What began in 1990 as an entity that brought pride to the Good Life City is saying goodbye to the community that has supported it.

The Albany Marine Band performed a concert, its last before being deactivated, at the Albany Municipal Auditorium Tuesday evening.

The concert was entitled "Thanks for the Memories" and featured some of the group's greatest hits, ranging from award-winning pieces to selections often requested by fans.

Among the selections were "Symphonic Suite to Star Trek," "King Kong," "When I Fall in Love" and "America the Beautiful."

Twenty minutes before the 7 p.m. show, there were people lining up outside the auditorium to get in. Parking spaces along Pine Avenue filled up rapidly with vehicles as it got closer to showtime, perhaps indicative of the interest the public had in seeing the band one last time.

"My husband used to be a Marine, and this was something the whole family could go to," said Lisa Stokes, of Leesburg, as she was waiting to get in.

Stokes, like others in the community, is disappointed to see the band leave.

"I thought they could have cut somewhere else," she said. "They do a great job."

Also there was Karen Kemp, known widely in the community as the executive director of the Lily Pad Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Center, and her husband.

"This is a bittersweet night," she said. "We wouldn't have missed this for the world. We have a lot of good memories of the band.

"We are just sad to see them go, and we are honored to be here tonight."

The band is preparing to disassemble after its Feb. 24 deactivation ceremony. The band's members are in the final stages of gathering their personal belongings, and the group is in the process of shipping off its equipment to the 10 remaining Marine Corps bands.

The most needy bands will get the first pick, officials said last week.

In December, amid financial restraints, word came down from Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C., that the group would be cut, along with the band stationed in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Before the cuts, there were a total of 12 bands in the Corps.

Some of the members of the Albany band have either already transitioned out or met their military obligation. Over the last several weeks, the remaining members have received their orders and are getting ready to transition into one of the other Marine bands.

Chief Warrant Officer Christian Flores, the band officer, will soon be serving as a training officer at the Armed Forces School of Music.

The action comes on the heels of the band being recognized as the Marine Band of the Year for two years in a row. It also won the award for the best live recording of the year. Once inside the building, before taking their seats, audience members were able to see these awards on display.

The band is expected to play its final show at the deactivation ceremony. The group also made an appearance Saturday in downtown Albany for the decommissioning of the Broad Avenue Bridge.

In its time here, the band provided music for military occasions, community celebrations, recruiting programs and official events. Last year, the group traveled more than 20,000 miles for civilian and military performances for audiences totaling more than 5.6 million.