Unalaskans are “always ready” for music, a tradition that goes back to the 1920s. Back in those days, there was just one piano on the whole Aleutian Chain, and it was used by Bering Sea Patrol commander Captain Frances Van Boskerck (along with friends Alfred Nannestad and Joseph Fournier) to write a catchy tune that became United States Coast Guard’s anthem “Semper Paratus” (“always ready”).
Today, there are plenty more pianos, along with plenty of piano students and music lovers. From regular recitals to visiting artists, workshops, and jam sessions, Unalaskans fill the Aleutian air with song all year long.
- Spring Coffee House and Project Dumpway Fashion Show – Since 1984 the Aleutian Arts Council has organized coffee house gatherings to give locals a chance to show off their musical and spoken word talents. The spring event, held in April, also includes a fashion show featuring recycled/repurposed items. Location: Burma Road Chapel
- Just Desserts – This classical affair, presented by the Aleutian Arts Council, features visiting artists (usually pianists or cellists) who also work with students and faculty at the school. Community members donate desserts for enjoyment after the performance. Held the first week in May at the Unalaska United Methodist Church.
- School district band concerts – Spring band concerts for the Unalaska School District are held in May, giving locals a chance to hear high school, junior high and 6th grade woodwinds bands. The award-winning high school band regularly travels to music festivals in other parts of the state, and has also premiered the works of local composers.
- Spring piano recital – This annual performance usually falls on Mother’s Day, when local piano students display their solo and duet skills on classical, jazz, modern, and original pieces at the Unalaska City High School Auditorium.
- Music in the Park (June-August) – A series of three events that rotate through local parks, Music in the Park offers games, food, fellowship and music. The ever-changing nature of Unalaska weather means that sometimes there will be live acoustic acts and sometimes there will be recorded music. Regardless, residents enjoy socializing and exploring parks with music providing a festive and energetic soundtrack for fun. For specific dates and locations, call the Unalaska Community Center at (907) 581-1297.
- Heart of the Aleutians Festival (August) – Everyone looks forward to this end of summer festival, filled with activities for all ages, including plenty of local, live musical acts. Whether you spend summer practicing up for a performance, or simply enjoy the variety of local talents, this festival is one of the musical highlights of the year.
- Fall Coffee House – The Aleutian Arts Council highlights local musical and spoken word talent during the Fall Coffee House in late October. Location: Burma Road Chapel.
- Formal Winter Piano Recital – More than two dozen Unalaska youth study piano, which makes for an entertaining showcase in early December. Piano students dress in formal wear and present classical and holiday pieces at the Unalaska High School Auditorium.
- Community Christmas Cantata – Singers ring December’s holiday season with the Community Christmas Cantata – a combination of multiple church choirs.
- Bay Whalin’ Hour – Tune in to KUCB radio on Wednesdays at 9 pm (repeating Saturdays at 6 pm) for an hour of contemporary jazz, singer/songwriter music, new discoveries and local talent selected by producer Wendy Hladick. Stream the show at www.kucb.org, or check out the archives at www.baywhalinhour.com.