Friday, August 12, 2011

Conductor's Corner - Community Bands

Community bands mean many things to many people.  A century ago most towns had town bands that played music for all kinds of functions.  Many considered themselves to be professional or semi-professional, and played dances and picnics as well as public and civic events. They also served as instructional bands for the young players coming up, because there were no band programs in the schools.

When automobile travel, then radio and talking movies changed the way American society used its leisure time, bands fell out of favor as adult recreation.  Many of the town bands died out when their members went to serve in the two great world wars.  By 1947 only a very few of the old bands remained.  But beginning in the 1930s school band programs became more widespread, and finally by mid-century a band meant a school band to most people.

Beginning in the 1950s, music educators seeking a way to involve their graduates and the parents of the children in their programs started community bands using school resources.  John Paynter's book "How to Start a Community Band" was a catalyst, and his North Shore Community Band (using the resources of Northwestern University) was a prime example for those who would revive the community band movement.                                          

The 1960s and 1970s saw a proliferation of adult bands fueled by growing affluence, the 2-car family, and the huge output of proficient players produced by the increasingly excellent high school programs.

Montgomery Village Community Band began in this climate, as did many of the other bands in the surrounding area.  Some were sponsored by their school departments as Paynter had recommended, but others were products of City government or Parks and Recreation department projects.  Some were sponsored by business concerns or employers for their employees.  Some were independent and owned corporately by their members. MVCB is fortunate in the fact that it is sponsored by MVF, and not dependent on fund-raising as so many bands are.

MVCB truly represents its community in that it draws not only from the Village, but from the surrounding area as well, and serves an ever widening public.  Our policy of being open without audition and letting players self-select whether to remain has served to keep us open to the community while allowing us to raise the musical standard ever higher.  Our band truly is a cultural gem for our community.

Gordon W. Bowie

Reprinted from Montgomery Village Community Band Newsletter, April 2005