By Doug Ireland email@example.com
---- — SALEM — It’s always nice to have a few friends over for a backyard get-together.
But a 124-piece band?
Jeffrey and Cherie Smeltzer of 15 Messer Ave. aren’t the types who throw huge parties. But when it comes to supporting a good cause, such as the Salem High School marching band, they’re all for inviting the entire neighborhood over for a little musical entertainment.
The Smeltzers are most certainly the talk of the town this week after the sounds of tubas, drums and trombones filled the air — and their back yard — Friday night.
The family, including 14-year-old bass drummer Dylan Smeltzer, won a raffle at the town’s Salemfest celebration. The grand prize for the raffle, hosted by the Salem High Parents Music Club, was a personal performance by the band.
The band would play wherever the winner chose — as long as it was locally. The Smeltzers chose their own back yard and word spread fast.
More than 60 people filed into the family’s yard, including many neighbors and fellow band parents. The Smeltzers’ daughter, Becky, a University of New Hampshire student and former band member, even came home for the special performance.
Cherie Smeltzer was a little concerned there wouldn’t be enough room on their street to accommodate the band’s large tractor-trailer.
But it fit. So did the 124 student musicians, performing a seven-minute show featuring selections from “Les Miserables.”
“Everybody had a great time; the band was amazing,” Smeltzer said. “The kids basically filled the entire back yard.”
So did the crowd. Luckily, there was enough room on the deck to accommodate the overflow, she said.
“It was nice to hear the band so close,” she said. “When you are out on the football field, it’s hard to hear the soloists.”
It was such a special occasion, Smeltzer said her parents, Ken and Linda Phipps, came up from Plainville, Mass., to hear the band. Her mother-in-law, Joanne Zilonis, came as well. Combined, they bought at least 20 of the $1 raffle tickets.
“My mom wanted to have it at her house,” she said.
For the young musicians, it was a unique opportunity. After the show, they performed at the school’s football game in Manchester.
Dylan Smeltzer was happy his family had won, but didn’t think much of it until the band’s big truck and 48-foot trailer pulled up to his house.
Dylan, a freshman, admitted he was a little self-conscious to suddenly have 123 band mates hanging around his yard. But instead of being teased, he was congratulated.
“At first, I was a little embarrassed to have everyone here,” he said. “Then, I was kind of excited — everyone knows me now. Everyone said I had a great yard.”
Dylan, whose chore is to cut the grass, was out there with the mower Thursday night. Everything has to look right when you’re entertaining the neighborhood.
Band members Kyleigh Niziak and Kelsie Cameron, both seniors, said they enjoyed the opportunity to play in such an unusual venue.
“I loved it,” said Kelsie, a flutist. “It was cool to see people in the neighborhood coming over to watch.”
Kyleigh, who plays the clarinet, said it was fun, but unusual to play in someone’s yard. It was also a little cramped.
“It was weird,” she said. “It was very difficult to move. We were all compacted together.”
Band director Marty Claussen said the band piled into the yard, quickly set up and performed without a hitch. Days before the performance, he stopped off at the Smeltzer home to check out the logistics.
“Everything went just fine,” he said. “The Smeltzers were well organized.”
Even after the band left to play in Manchester, the party continued. About 20 remained for chili and hot dogs.
“We fed everyone who stayed,” Smeltzer said.
Parents Music Club president Dan Fischer said the club was pleased with the fundraiser. Although the totals had not been tallied, he said the club made at least a couple of hundred dollars on the raffle.