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Community Concert Band
The Passion of Making Music!
Do you play a musical instrument? Better yet, did you play an instrument at one time? There are thousands of opportunities for adults (young and old alike) all over this county of ours when it comes to playing and performing with a community band. I don't remember who I sat next to in my chemistry class in high school, but I can tell you who I sat next to in my four years in my high school band. Even at the age of 62, I can recall several names of people who were in music organizations with me back then? And because of my schooling and experiences in high school band, I chose to pursue a career in music. As a result, I developed a true passion for performing and in particular in a community band and still perform with one today.
This article is not about me, but about the many people who share the same passion for making music through the medium of the band.
What Is a Community Band?
By definition, a community band is a concert band or a brass band ensemble. Many are sponsored by the town or city in which it is located and consists primarily of amateur performers from that community. As a matter of distinction, far too many times do people use the wrong terminology when referring to a band as an orchestra Or an orchestra as a band. Just for clarification, the difference between these two is that an orchestra has a string section (violins, violas, cellos and double basses) and the wind band does not. The instrumentation is designed around wind and percussion instruments. There is an article called: The Evolution of the Concert Band that explores how the concert band developed over the years up to the current day groups.
More than 2500 community bands exist in the United States today. There are various size ensembles ranging from 25 members to the group that numbers 110 musicians or more. Because of the changes over the years of the college and university band, many community bands now take on a more professional sounding title or name such as: Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, Wind Symphony, Symphonic Winds. These titles are usually preceded by the township, city, or county depending on where the group is located. For example: Northshore Concert Band, Manhattan Wind Ensemble, Dallas Winds, Strafford Wind Symphony.
These band musicans come from all walks of life. Retirees, teachers, students, plumbers, attorneys etc.... Just for the fun of getting together to play their instrument once a week in a rehearsal and an occasional performance of whatever they may have in their library. For more on this subject.
The Conductor Is The Key!
Amateur and many professional musicians join the community band because of great experiences they had in high school, college and beyond. This adult activity is a great outlet for musicians to experience rehearsing and performing with an ensemble on a regular basis. The camaraderie that is built in the group is much like that of a sports team.
But one of the key factors that a musician will join is because of the reputation of the conductor. It's exciting to be part of a rehearsal and watching as a skilled conductor communicates his or her interpretations of the music and knowing that this hard work will be a great experience for the audience when concert time arrives. A good conductor can take what might be a fairly good ensemble and turn it into a great one through knowledge of the music, enthusiasm, motivational style and overall great musicianship. These skills along with detailed organization and structural direction by the conductor/director makes for a great experience for all involved.
When a musician attends a concert by a local group and is so impressed by their performance they will soon be knocking on the door of that group in hopes to soon be a playing member. This is where groups grow to good size because they attract the more advanced players. Good conductors are like great coaches and know how to win the championship! I love going to a band concert that has a packed house. It's like going to a great restaurant that is full of customers. You know that the food is going to taste great! So, you just look at the menu to see what the chef is serving up that night. The same with a great band concert. You just look at the program to see what the conductor is cooking for that concert.
Music Performed by the Community Band
The community band is best known for its concerts in the park during the summer months. The flag waving patriotic concerts on or around the 4th of July in every township, city and state across the country. This has been a tradition for centuries now and will always be part of our culture. A style of music played more often by a band than an orchestra will be that of a 'march'. And the one person that is known as the 'The March King' is composer - John Philip Sousa. No patriotic concert would be complete without the playing of his Stars and Stripes Forever March.
But that is not all what a community band is. Many community groups will rehearse and perform throughout the year at various indoor as well as outdoor venues. From concert halls to mall concerts, Again, the two factors that will determine how good a band is, will usually be dictated by the type of musician and how professional the conductor is.
There certainly are mediocre bands that play one type of music that usually end up being simple selections for the mere fun of playing. This would cover marches, pop tunes, patriotic tunes and the like. On the other hand there are community bands that own an extensive library of music ranging from the simple selections to the more advanced symphonic works for this medium. Overtures, Tone Poems, Symphonic Selections as well as Orchestral Transcriptions. The musicians and conductors of this type ensemble will be of the highest caliber. Community bands of this nature are usually found in concert halls dressed in formal wear, having a very professional look to their performances emulating that of the most professional Symphony Orchestra. These type groups also rival those of the finest military bands in the country complete with guest soloists and conductors.
Washington Grays March - Nice March and Difficult!
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Maybe you have been thinking of joining a band. Well I have a task for you. Instead of watching reruns of 'The Big Bang Theory', look online and find out what community bands are in your area or your state. Find one that is close and look to see when their next performance is and go to it. The performance may hit a nerve and motivate you to investigate more about the group you just heard. If you liked the performance, seek out the conductor and let him or her know. Find out when their next rehearsal is and put it on your calendar.
There is a very fine organization that promotes the community band movement all over the world, called 'The Association of Concert Bands'. (acbands.org) On their website is a directory of bands all over the world. They are well worth looking into. acbands.org. Please let me know of your experiences in music making.
© 2015 Reginald Thomas