Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Community Band Spectrum

Community Band Spectrum
Artistic Interpretation
The Concord Band wants those who attend its concerts, acquire its audio and video recordings or support it financially to understand that the Concord Band is a community band with some unusual characteristics. When one attempts to define the term community band precisely, however, it becomes clear that a simple definition is not possible. So we will help our readers understand many of the relevant issues.

First, what is a band? There are many kinds of bands. Almost all community bands are concert (as opposed to marching) bands, sometimes also called wind ensembles or symphonic wind ensembles. Their instrumentation consists of a wide range of woodwind, brass and percussion instruments. A subset are brass (only) bands.

The concert band as we know it today in America has existed since about 1900. Most serious music for concert band also includes a part for the double bass (acoustic string bass)—the only string instrument in its ensemble. Concert bands typically have about 65 members, but most concert band music can be performed by as few as 40 players.
In this country, the only full-time professional concert bands are military bands.
From its inception, serious (concert) music has been written for the concert band, but because the wind ensemble is so much younger than the symphony orchestra (which has existed for more than 400 years), the orchestra literature is vastly larger than that available for the band. Another important difference between bands and orchestras is that there are many full-time professional orchestras in the US and around the world.

Who plays in a community band? Community bands are, for the most part, amateur musicians who volunteer their time. More serious community bands hire part-time professional Music Directors/Conductors. The Music Director of the Concord Band is James O’Dell, a low brass instrumentalist and Associate Dean of the Boston Conservatory. A few members of most community bands are frequently professional musicians, most often music educators. Some may even have been trained as music performers who, for a variety of reasons, have chosen not to make music their careers. Some community bands, including the Concord Band, hire professional soloists for concerts.

What is the mission of the community band? Some community bands exist primarily for the pleasure of its members (the "marching and chowder society” for example). Others may have more serious objectives, such as providing musical challenges and large ensemble performing opportunities for wind and percussion instrumentalists beyond high school and college, and to bring good concert band music to the public.

How many concerts do community bands give each year? This can range from one to more than a dozen, depending upon the band’s mission. Some community bands are created solely for the purpose of performing at a single annual town event. The Concord Band was founded in 1959 to march in Concord’s annual Patriot’s Day parade. By 1970, however, it had become strictly a concert band, rehearsing and giving concerts from September through July, now typically giving 14 concerts each year.

Do the members of community bands audition? At the purely fun end of the spectrum, there is no reason to audition. As performance quality becomes important, the professional music director will usually screen applicants to assure their capabilities and for seating within sections. This is how the Concord Band operates. Some community bands audition formally every member and applicant for open positions each year.

What is the source of the music literature available to the community band? Concert band music has two basic sources: transcriptions and arrangements of music originally written for other media (typically orchestra or keyboard) and categories (show or pop music, jazz, rock, etc.) or music written specifically for concert band.

Over the years, a “grading” system has been established to identify the degree of difficulty of concert band music. Although originally meant for school bands, now even pieces meant for serious adult bands are graded. Essentially all of the music played by the Concord Band are graded 4 and 5. Pieces with grade 6 are fairly rare because only the most capable bands can play them.
MOTTO: The CONCORD BAND is a community band with a professional attitude.
One of the ways in which the Concord Band is most unique is that it has probably commissioned—or has had written for it as gifts—more new music for symphonic wind ensemble than any other community band in the world. The basis for this claim is not extensive research; rather, it is based on the total absence of challenge since we first published this claim about a decade ago. In April, the Band debuted the 78th such piece, a composition by Concord Band Music Director Emeritus William McManus.
Daniel S Diamond

Dan Diamond is a mainstay of the Concord Band, having served for decades and wearing many hats, including Trustee, percussionist, editor, fundraiser, publisher, and producer.

1 comment:

  1. Just a note - there are other professional wind bands besides the service bands; for example, The Dallas Wind Symphony: