Photo by Charity Maness/Fall River County Herald Star
The Community Band at play in Centennial Park on Monday evening.
By Charity Maness
HOT SPRINGS – Each Monday evening, as the day begins to slow down, the Community Band is just revving up for their open air performance at Centennial Park beginning at 4:30.
The Community Band is in its third decade of entertaining and sharing their love of music. With their roots beginning in the late 1990s the band has historically and currently welcomes all musicians who love to play music.
“The Community Band is open to anyone who plays an instrument,” said organizer and music instructor Mellisa Vande Stroet. “They need to supply their own instrument and we supply the music.”
Currently the band consists of 18 musicians creating music with a variety of instruments including flute, clarinet, bassoon, alto & tenor saxophone, trombone, baritone, bass guitar, trumpets, French horn, & percussion (snare drum, bass drum, & cymbal/tambourine).
Patty Schuh brings her Bassoon talents to the Community Band with 40 plus years of musical experience.
“I began playing clarinet,” she explained, “but my band instructor took one look at my hands and told me I should play the Bassoon; you have to have long fingers to play the Bassoon and I do have long fingers,” she said as she splayed them out and wiggled them with a smile
Bev Keffler brought her Alto Sax and 60 plus years of experience to the concert in Centennial Park.
“I enjoy music so much,” said Keffler of her commitment to the band, “I enjoy entertaining people too.”
Her love of music so strong she admits she does not have a favorite piece.
“I love any piece, I just love it all, I just love music,” she smiled.
Keffler also plays piano and the melodica; a handheld wind-type instrument where the musician blows through the mouthpiece while pressing keys on the keyboard which is similar to a piano.
The Community Band even has a musician who plays a 1918 double belled euphonium; Dr. Garry Strauser.
“This used to be played by James Bowker in Buffalo Gap,” explained Strauser of the unique instrument. “His daughter, Louise ‘Bunny’ Emery asked me one day if she were to refurbish it would I play it in the (United Churches) church orchestra. Of course I said I would be honored,” said Stauser. “Such an honor.”
The euphonium is somewhat similar to the baritone horn, yet, equally dissimilar as the double belled euphonium has two bells; a large bell producing a mellow tone and a small bell producing a lighter tone. The euphonium made its debut in the late 1800s and said its final farewell in 1960 as the last one was manufactured and the end of the big band era was ushered out. But Strauser brings this gifted euphonium back to life in all its glory.
“I enjoy it; it’s melodious,” he explained. “The smaller bell sounds like a trombone.”
Strauser began his foray into the musical world in 5th grade learning to play large horns.
“Of course they gave the largest horn to the smallest kid,” he laughed at the memory, “I had to walk 8 blocks to school with my horn in a red wagon.”
While there is only one Community Band concert left in their season, a few dates have been added with special guests.
“You can hear the community band August 1st & 8th at Centennial Park with special guests Hot Springs Middle School band members,” said Vande Stroet with excitement.
These two concerts will highlight the skills of the Hot Springs Middle School youth as well as the Community Band.
“It’s wonderful to have youth join us,” said Strauser, “I love it.”
Vande Stroet has been teaching for 22 years and enjoys watching her students grow in musical talent and awareness.
“My favorite part is watching students reach their musical potential and enjoying themselves while doing it. I also enjoy hearing how their experience in my music program prepared them for a future in music or gave them the self-confidence to go and do great things in real life,” she said.
Teaching music, as well as other subjects does come with its own set of challenges though.
“The most challenging part is dealing with a diversity of backgrounds, upbringings, and expectations that people bring into the world of music education,” said Vande Stroet.
No matter the challenges Vande Stroet is excited to see her students perform live and hopes the community will as well.
“People can support the community band by coming to our performances, bringing family & friends along with them, encouraging our youth to participate, or join,” she said. “The more people we have the fuller the band will sound each week.”
Concerts are rain or shine. If inclement weather occurs the concerts will be moved to the United Churches fellowship hall. Additionally, walking tacos are provided for donation by the High School Fine Arts Boosters.
Community Band rehearsals occur October through May twice a month in the high school band room with concerts scattered throughout the year.
If you are interested in joining the Community Band please contact Mellisa Vande Stroet at 605-881-7193.