by Marc C. Whitt
If your community or local region is blessed to have a community band, you may wish to check it out as a perfect complement to your high school child’s musical experience. Rehearsing and performing with such an ensemble can certainly be a highlight to their music education and budding performance career.
During much of the 18th and 19th centuries, many towns and villages across the United States supported a community band. Many of us have read of the picturesque Sunday afternoon in the park concerts where time, in many ways, stood still while audiences set aside the stress and challenges of “real life” to relax and soak in the stirring sounds of a band.
Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, community bands have continued to enjoy somewhat of a renaissance.
Organizations such as the Association of Concert Bands and the Sousa Foundation’s National Community Band have seen community bands coming back stronger than ever. In fact, the adult community band is one of the fastest-growing music ensembles in the nation.
Festivals such as Danville, Kentucky’s “Great American Brass Band Festival”, celebrating nearly 30 years, are springing up across the nation and are quickly becoming musical magnets for traditional community bands and brass bands.
Here are a few reasons you may wish to encourage your band student to join:
- A community band is an excellent outlet for a serious young musician to hone his or her art and craft. The additional playing time spent on their instrument will allow them to benefit from music lesson-like opportunities. Please don’t misunderstand. Joining a community band does not replace private lessons. However, performing with such an ensemble heightens one’s playing skill, sight reading ability, and performance confidence.
- A community band often performs challenging pieces of music, including classic wind band masterpieces. Your child will benefit from this experience by rehearsing and performing such music. Should your child already be a member of a competitive, distinguished high school band program, an additional experience with a community band will make them even better and prepare them even more so for their college performance years. On the other hand, should your child not belong to a competitive high school program, a community band is a wonderful outlet for them to be exposed to practicing and performing the finest in wind band literature.
- A community band enables the student to stay musically sharp throughout the year, particularly during the summer months. Several community bands feature summer performances in their local parks, concert halls and at festivals. Participating in this type of ensemble will keep their embouchure in tip-top shape and will allow them to excel once the marching and concert seasons resume at their high school in the Fall.
- Last, but certainly not least, a community band encourages “community” among a wide range of ages, diverse backgrounds, and musical skills and experiences within a group of bandsmen who are dedicated to quality and excellence. I have seen first-hand from my own playing experiences with the Madison Community Band in Richmond, Kentucky, the social and musical growth a teenager can receive seated beside someone who has been playing their instrument for 20 years or more. You simply cannot put a price tag on such an experience.
To locate a community band in your town or area, first consult with your child’s band director. The director can offer the best advice when considering such an involvement. Also, most community bands charge a small participation fee or none at all.
As noted by the Association of Concert Bands, your child will enjoy musical excellence, gain civic pride, and provide live musical enjoyment for enthusiastic audiences.