A band for all ages
For some new members of the Mahoosuc Community Band, playing is a matter of remembering what they learned decades ago.
For others, it’s just a continuation of what they are learning now.
The band was formed in 1994 to fill a musical void created in the community when SAD 44 eliminated the district music program.
The members were mostly people who had learned to play an instrument in the past through school programs.
The group has grown steadily over the years, and with the return of the SAD 44 program, now boasts members from all generations. At this week’s annual Christmas concert, about 30 musicians turned out.
The band practices once a week, and performs regularly throughout the year, including Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day, Mollyockett Day, and concerts in schools and on the Bethel Common.
For older recruits, said member Jane Chandler, “one of our standard jokes is that when a new person first shows up, they have to ‘fess up’ and say how many years since they played. For some people it’s been 40 years and the music comes back.”
As it comes back for older members, the youngest members are still learning -- but that doesn’t mean they don’t teach their elders the skills they’re mastering.
“It’s a wonderful place for young people from Telstar or Gould to expand their musical experiences. And it’s a great place for all of us to learn from the younger members,” said Chandler.
The young musicians even take turns conducting, she said.
And what they learn with the MCB can help take them to higher levels in the world of music. Some are studying music in college.
Two are studying French Horn (one in graduate school), another is studying music education and performance while playing a baritone, and another is a music student who plays the oboe.
Among current high school student members is Telstar senior Tabitha Corriveau, who plays trombone.
“I joined the community band a few years ago,” said Corriveau. “I joined because my friends had been playing in the band. I joined with my two sisters, playing only in the summer my first two years. I like playing with people who are better than I am so I can get more experience. I find playing in the community band a lot of fun. I have really enjoyed it.”
Ellen Whitney of Bethel and Brian Dunham of Greenwood are original band members.
Whitney said that in 1994, after she and Rhonda Buker of Newry watched the Memorial Day in Bethel and saw “that they had to hire an out-of-town high school band to march in order to have music, she and I talked and decided to make a few calls to some of the folks we knew were still around the area from our band years, and see if anyone was interested in starting up a community band.”
A half dozen people responded initially. They worked out music and a place to practice. They found some old Telstar High School band instruments stored in SAD 44 Supt. Dave Murphy’s barn.
“Our first goal was to play some marches in the Mollyockett parade that year, and we accomplished that. The rest is history.”
In those early days members numbered around 12, she said. By the late 1990s it was around 20, Dunham said.
“Student participation was gradual,” he said. “In 2005 we began reaching out to area schools - SAD 44, Oxford Hills and Rumford. We sent letters to music departments asking if they had students interested in playing in a summer band program. Over the past few years we’ve seen a bump in student band members because of the SAD 44 music program.”
For the Christmas concert this past weekend, he said, eight musicians were high school and middle school students.
“This summer we had 44, with 16 middle and high school kids,” said Dunham.
Looking down the road, he said, “a future goal is having the SAD44 band join with us at Memorial Day parades.”
Riding in those parades has been an adventure at times. The players are typically seated on a trailer pulled by a truck.
“The early years of doing that were most interesting, as the trailers varied in sizes and shapes and the trucks that hauled them as well,” said Whitney.
The most memorable trip was behind an old dump truck.
“Between the shifting and the exhaust going up the small hill in Locke Mills, it almost did not happen, and we were all pretty well fumigated by the time we got done that day,” she said. There have been times over the years when folks sat on wheel wells of trailers balancing precariously, but nobody has ever fallen off. Thankfully in recent years we have been able to borrow Robert Lowell’s nice big trailer.”
Anyone interested in joining the band may contact president Kathleen DeVore, (875-2364 or email@example.com)