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Community band

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Community band

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A community band is a concert band ensemble, generally sponsored by the town or city in which it is located and consisting of amateur performers. Bowen defines a community band as "a community-based ensemble of wind and percussion players, comprised primarily of adults who do not receive the majority of their livelihood from participation in the ensemble, which regularly holds rehearsals and performs at least one time per year". Some bands are also marching bands, participating in parades or other outdoor events. Community bands are also referred to as 'town', 'citizen' or 'civic' bands. Other names include 'wind orchestra', 'wind symphony' and 'wind ensemble'. The name is usually preceded by the name of the community or organization that sponsors the band, the town or county where they are based, or preceded by the name of a local geographical landmark or regional term. Sometimes the name just contains a place name followed by the word 'band'.


Community bands in the United States

In the United States, community band concerts are most frequently given during holidays and patriotic events, such as the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Father's Day, and the lighting of community Christmas trees. During the summer, most community band concerts are given outdoors. The size of a community band varies from tens of musicians to over one hundred. During the United States Bicentennial, having a community band was one of the criteria for being designated a Bicentennial City. There are about 2,500 community bands across the United States.

The modern American community band is rooted in European tradition. Immigrants, like the German Moravians who settled in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, brought the band tradition with them to the United States. The Moravians organized bands in towns where they settled, and they offered both secular and religious music selections. The Moravian bands are still playing in Moravian communities, such as in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Community bands in the United States often emerged from militia or military bands. The earliest amateur bands in the United States did occasionally include woodwind instruments but band and band music emphasized primarily the brass instruments. The popularity of early community bands can be attributed to the participation of thousands of ordinary citizens in these ensembles and the patriotic appeal of the music and performance.

Allentown Community Band, circa 1880 Allentown Community Band, circa 1880

The Allentown Band (Allentown, Pennsylvania) is reported to be the oldest civilian concert band in the United States. The roots of this band have been traced back to a military band. The Allentown Band has played a continuously active role in the musical life and cultural fabric of the community since its first documented performance on July 4, 1828. While it is clear that the band has been in continuous existence since 1828, there is good evidence to indicate that the inception of the band occurred before that time. An early newspaper, "The Republican," published a story that the "Allentown Military Band" performed as a fife and drum corps as early as 1822. In the same article, the band is referred to as the "Northampton Military Band." Confusion is further prevalent because both the band and the town were referred to by different names throughout the early nineteenth century. Prior to 1838, the community now known as Allentown was officially Northampton.

While Allentown's band is the top example of a band that has survived with professional players in its ranks, there are also many community bands staffed entirely by volunteer musicians. One such example is the Franklin Silver Cornet Band of Franklin, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1856, the band is one of several surviving from that era. In a city of just 8,000 people, the band continues to present summer concerts in the park, performed by a group containing everything from students to retirees. A handful of bands have retained terms such as 'cornet', 'brass', 'village' and 'city' which were common in the naming of such bands in the 19th century.

Popularity of the bands of Patrick Gilmore, Patrick Conway, and John Philip Sousa in the late 1800s and early 1900s led to an increase in the number of community bands. There is one estimate that there were 10,000 bands in the United States in 1889. Of those, close to 100 are still active. Wartime patriotism, such as the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I and II, and even the recent war with Iraq have added to the popularity of community bands.

Community bands experienced a great dying out after the end of World War I, victims of the automobile, new mass media, and a large cultural shift. This actually led to a rise in school music programs-- the death of community bands left instrument manufacturers without a market for their product, so they marketted heavily to schools.

The increased number of musicians that learned to play an instrument in high school or college bands but did not pursue music as a career has also provided a rich pool of amateur talent seeking an outlet for their musical abilities. An increased availability of music written for concert band has also benefitted the community band after World War II to the present. The Chatfield Brass Band in Chatfield, Minnesota maintains a free lending library of concert band music that is used by community bands in the United States and around the world.

See also

External links

Other references

  • Bowen, C. 1995, Adult Community Bands in the Southeastern United States: An Investigation of Current Activity and Background Profiles of the Participants, PhD. diss. The Florida State University.
  • Cohen, R. 1997. The Musical Society Community Bands of Valencia, Spain: A Global Study of Their Administration, Instrumentation, Repertoire and Performance Activities. PhD. diss., Northwestern University.
  • Compton, B. 1979. Amateur Instrumental Music in America, 1765-1810, PhD. diss., Louisianna State University.
  • Keoguh, Sarah Beth, 24 Apr 2003, The Geography of Community Bands in Virginia, Masters Thesis Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
  • Martin, P. 1982. A Status Study of Community Bands in the United States, PhD. diss., Northwestern University.
  • Marvin, A. 1997. 'Facing the Music: The turn of the century hometown band'. Kansas Heritage 5, 4: 4-8.
  • Neidig, K. 1975. 'A survey of Community bands in the U.S.' The Instrumentalist, 30: 40-47.
  • Rothrock, D. 1991. The perpetuation of the Moravian instrumental music tradition: Bernard Jacob Pfohl and the Salem, North Carolina, bands (1979-1960). Ed.D. diss., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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