CAPE ELIZABETH — It was in Chicago of all places that Tom Lizotte hatched the idea of commissioning a piece of music to celebrate the legacies of Cape Elizabeth’s famous former and current residents.

Lizotte, the Cape high school band director, had completed a touristy afternoon and was leafing through a book about film director John Ford in a museum gift shop when he came across a reference to Cape Elizabeth.

Ford, who was best known for directing epic Western movies, was born in Cape Elizabeth in 1894.

That revelation led Lizotte to think about movie star Bette Davis. Lizotte is a dedicated fan, and has seen “All About Eve” too many times to count. He was well aware that Davis and husband Gary Merrill lived near Fort Williams in the 1950s.

“Those two things came together for me, and I thought, ‘Well, this is interesting,’” Lizotte said. “But I needed one more person. Some time later I learned that (Olympic gold medalist) Joan Benoit Samuelson was born in Cape Elizabeth. That’s when I knew, ‘That’s enough for a piece of music.’“

He turned his idea over to composer Andrew Boysen, who lives in Massachusetts and teaches music at the University of New Hampshire.

Lizotte challenged Boysen to write a piece of music for the Cape Elizabeth High School Wind Symphony that wove together characteristics of those famous people.

Boysen accepted the challenge and began his task.

But Lizotte wasn’t done. While reading the newspaper one day, he came across an article about Anne Burke, who has tended the Shore Road post office since 1941.

“She’s not famous, but she is an icon in this community. She had to be part of this piece,” Lizotte said.

He called Boysen and asked him to write a fourth movement dedicated to Burke.

The result is a composition Boysen has titled “Cape Elizabeth Sketches.” The Wind Symphony will premiere the piece at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the high school auditorium.

The premiere is part of the schoolwide art celebration “Icons & Artists.”

The idea of a high school band playing original music is not unusual in Cape Elizabeth. Lizotte has made it a priority whenever possible.

This one required the resources of both Cape music boosters and the Cape Elizabeth Educational Foundation. The boosters raised $3,000, and the foundation donated another $3,000 to commission the piece.

Lizotte saluted both organizations for their support.

“I so strongly believe in performing compositions for bands that are original for the students involved. It gives them ownership of the piece and is a source of pride,” he said.

“I felt it would be a great way to bring the community together. The sense of home and family is really substantial in this town, and this piece provides an opportunity for us to delve into that.”

It also provides a hands-on learning opportunity for the 60 or so musicians involved in the Wind Symphony.

They’ve been working on the piece since January, and Boysen has visited the school to coach the students directly.

“Cape Elizabeth Sketches” lasts somewhere between 10 and 12 minutes. Each movement is distinct, with a different and unique flavor.

The John Ford segment feels like an Aaron Copland piece, with rugged rhythms conjuring images of the West.

The Bette Davis movement is calm on the surface, but boiling with turmoil below.

Anne Burke’s movement reflects the woman’s personality: Warm and inviting.

And the Joan Benoit Samuelson segment has the energy of a long-distance runner, with a steady tempo.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for our students and for the community,” Lizotte said.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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