Tuesday night marked the second rehearsal of the Calhoun County Community Band, comprising residents of Jacksonville and surrounding communities, most former members of high school and college bands who are looking for a chance to play.
“If you marched in high school and college, that’s it,” said Eric Key, founder of the Calhoun County Center for the Arts, which sponsors the new concert band.
He said people who perform as part of a school group don’t have many outlets for performing after graduating.
John Phillips, a Jacksonville resident who has been pushing the idea of a community band for years, said the holdup has always been in finding a place to host it and someone to conduct it.
“It just finally fell into place this year,” he said. “When Eric started the council for the arts, I thought, ‘I wonder if he’d want to host a community band.’” Then he approached Alan Conaway, who retired this past year from his position as band director at Alexandria High School and agreed to conduct band.
“He’s right out of the schools,” Phillips said. “It’d be great for him to step in because he’s still in practice.”
Conaway said stepping in to lead a group of adults — many of whom haven’t played with other musicians in years — was simple compared to beginners.
“They might be a little bit rusty, but most of them are quite good,” he said. “I’ve been impressed with their playing ability.”
Many of the musicians who have shown up for the first two rehearsals have been experienced band members.
“It was like meeting up with old friends for a while,” said DeeDee Lloyd, a former Jacksonville State University Marching Southerner who found herself among fellow alums at her first rehearsal Tuesday night. Lloyd, a 43-year-old stay-at-home mom, hasn’t had much opportunity to play her flute for the past couple of years, but in the time since she was in the marching band at Oxford High School and then JSU, she has had the opportunity to play in church orchestras and musical productions locally and in Chattanooga, Tenn.
She was pleased to find that she had no trouble picking back up with sight-reading the music, but her stamina, she said, wasn’t what it used to be.
Having somewhere to play is important for Donnie Monroe, who plays the tuba—an instrument whose power can annoy the neighbors.
Monroe, 33, said he’d taken about 10 years off from music. A former Marching Southerner as well, he had recently begun playing with the Roman Festival Brass Band in Rome, Ga., but was looking for something closer to his Gadsden home. The Calhoun County Community Band came along at just the right time.
Members are finding their way to rehearsal primarily through Facebook. About 20 musicians—not always the same individuals—have shown up for each of the practices, and organizers expect numbers to grow.
Though the group is just getting started, the band has already been invited to play at a concert for the city of Jacksonville July 3. As the band’s members continue to hone their skills, the ensemble may be available for other performances as well, said Key.
But at the moment, the band suffers from shortages of supplies such sheet music, music stands and instruments, particularly percussion equipment. Key said the Center for the Arts is accepting donations of these items and money to buy music for the band to perform. More information on donations can be found at the council’s website at www.calcoarts.com.
While bigger things may be in the works down the road, the members right now are just focused on the original point behind the group: fun.
“I can’t emphasize that enough — fun,” said Phillips, who noted that anyone is welcome to the group’s weekly rehearsals on Tuesdays at 7 p.m.
“It doesn’t matter to me if you played in the Sound of the South, the Southerners, the Million Dollar Band, the Auburn band, or if you were in the military bands,” said Phillips. “If you never stepped out of a high school band room, if you want to play a horn, we’ll make it happen.”