Chesterfield Community Band celebrates 20 years
Every Monday evening, the carpeted choir room at The Brandermill Church fills with people and music as members of the Chesterfield Community Band gather with their instruments to do what they’ve been doing for 20 years: celebrate their shared love of music and performance.
The band was organized in 1997 by half a dozen former high school musicians, explains band president Bobby Coghill, a trumpet player who has been with the group since its second rehearsal. These were folks “who wanted to have fun and play music, just as they had in the high school band.” Some were active school band directors; it didn’t take long for them to spread the word to former students and friends.
With the help of the Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation Department, the founding musicians located a rehearsal space in the old Manchester Middle School building. But, being on school property, that space was unavailable during summer months. The band moved from location to location for a while before landing a year-round spot at the Brandermill Church about 15 years ago.
Since then the band has grown to 50 members, more than 35 of which attended a recent rehearsal in preparation for the band’s 20th anniversary concert celebration this Sunday, April 23. For two hours, it was all about the music. It didn’t take long for the rehearsal space to fill with symphonic melodies, including a medley from Disney’s “The Lion King,” “The Lord of the Dance” and a Sousa march.
The band works together to choose the music. “If someone wants to play something in particular, we try to accommodate them,” says Coghill. Conducting the rehearsal was clarinet player Marc Krauss, who has served as the band’s primary conductor for the last eight years. Krauss has spent most of his adult life participating in college and community bands; he’s been playing the clarinet for more than 50 years, and conducting for 40. Currently, he performs with the European Wind Ensemble and as a soloist for various church and social functions. When he’s conducting, he encourages band members to play music they enjoy, as well as some challenging pieces.
At one point during the rehearsal, as the band worked on a new piece, someone hit a loud, wrong note. As Krauss stopped to make a correction, he shook his head and laughed, “That’s it. … If you are going to make a mistake, make it with confidence!” As conductor, he tells members to “find and identify what you can do. Make it beautiful.”
The Chesterfield Community Band, which has more members over the age of 50 than under, is one of several Central Virginia bands where nonprofessional musicians can get their music fix. These bands, including the European Wind Ensemble, Richmond Symphonic Winds, Henrico Concert Band and Hanover Concert Band, fill a void for many musicians, providing regular performance opportunities throughout the year. This year’s schedule for the Chesterfield ensemble includes performances at Weston Manor, the Chesterfield County Fourth of July festivities and Lucy Corr Village.
“So many played, and played well, in high school and college. [Many are] accomplished musicians who didn’t follow a path of career musician,” Coghill says of his fellow band members. “Some haven’t played in years – 20 or 30 years, and it is amazing to see how fast it all comes back.”
While there are a few music teachers and professional musicians in the group, most of the participants are amateurs, from all walks of life: businesspeople, homemakers and retirees. Coghill himself has played keyboard professionally in addition to being a businessman. He began his musical career with the piano, but a fascination with marching bands led him to take up the trumpet in high school. That turned out to be a smart decision, as he met his wife, a flutist, in the high school band.
Philip Jones, a semi-retired professional bass trombonist, has played with such notables as Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra, the Ray Charles Band, and Jay and the Americans. He joined the community band, he says, because “I just love to play.”
Adrienne Nelson, a saxophone player and the band librarian, slipped in and out of the concert arc seating during rehearsal, making sure everyone had all the necessary sheet music. A member of the Richmond City Schools music department, she, like Coghill, joined the band during its first year. “I love the music and the camaraderie,” she says.
Coghill also values the sense of community the band provides. “I’ve made so many wonderful friends, I don’t know what I’d do without it,” he says. “No matter how bad a day you’ve had, you come to rehearsal and you always go home feeling better.” ¦
The Chesterfield Community Band will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a free concert on Sunday, April 23, at 4 p.m. at The Brandermill Church, 4500 Millridge Parkway. A reception will follow.