Promising Skies

April, 2017
By
J.C.Phillips
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On the 4th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the rest of the United States paid very little attention to that particular remembrance because New Orleans was still in the rebuilding and recovering process.  However, on that anniversary, the Marine Reserve Force Band played a musical composition called ‘Promising Skies’ by Robert Smith. The piece was commissioned by the Marines because they wanted to celebrate the resiliency of the city instead of harboring on the tragic events that took place on August 29th 2005.

When commissioning the piece, the Marines wanted someone who had a familiarity with the people, its history and New Orleans Jazz music. They wanted someone who empathized with the cultural specificity of New Orleans. Out of all of the entries that were submitted, the one from Robert Smith of Pensacola, Florida was chosen.

Robert Smith was the ideal fit because he was from the Gulf region; had a composer’s knowledge for Jazz and had suffered tragedy in his own life because he lost nearly everything in Hurricane Ivan one year prior to Hurricane Katrina. The emotional connection that was needed in the piece was a vital component to why Mr. Smith was chosen.

Mr. Smith’s painstaking attention to the piece was so deliberate, that the composition was completed one month prior to being performed. The Marine Reserve Band received the composition and they begin to practice feverishly to arrange the little nuances that the music called for.

On Sunday, August 30th 2009, at 3pm, in St. Louis Cathedral, the Marine Reserve Band played Robert Smith’s ‘Promising Skies’.  This piece struck the right chords with the audience who responded with a standing ovation as tears streamed down their face.  It was a powerful representation of the love, the pain and the hope they experienced and why they came back to rebuild their lives, their homes and their city. This composition spoke to the resiliency of the city and so much more - a memorable masterpiece.

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