by Lisa Tome
Two decades ago, Paul Miller saw an advertisement that musicians were wanted for a new band.
Miller, a saxophone player, decided to give it a shot.
"It was 20 years since I had played. But I said I'd give it a year and if I improved, I'd stick with it," said Miller.
Twenty years later, Miller plays on - as one of the original members of the Upper Chesapeake Community Band.
"I've always enjoyed playing music since I was a little tot. I enjoy this band. We get out into the public and play for good people and good causes. I enjoyed playing with others with the same interests. We're like a band family," said Miller.
Joyce Williams was new to the area when she joined the band as a trumpet player and one of the original members.
"I was kind of excited. I had played through high school and college and was excited for the chance," said Williams. "Music is really important to me. And here, we have high school age to 70 or 80."
One of the younger members of the group is Williams' son who is 14. He plays tenor sax. Williams' twin sister also played with the band.
Musician Bobbi Kulis also joined the band at its beginning.
After she learned that a band was forming, she got her clarinet overhauled and signed on. She said she likes that fact that older people can get together to play music. "Younger people have the high school and middle school bands," she said. "I like playing at the nursing homes. It's amazing to see the residents sing along and tap their feet. It's rewarding to entertain them," said Kulis.
Tuba player Neil Eller joined the band after playing in the U.S. Army Band in the late 1960s. "I like the people here. We have a good group. We play together very well as a team," said Eller. He said the band has improved significantly in the 20 years.
Bill Meehan plays the trumpet. He played in other bands before signing on with Upper Chesapeake. "You enjoy doing it. It's kind of like a sport. You keep doing it and it keeps you in shape," said Meehan. "I like the bigger venues."
Ruth Jamison plays bass clarinet. She signed on for the band due to her love of music. "The people are great. They make you feel welcome and they worry when you are not here," said Jamison.
Additional members who have been with the band since it started are Will Minor, Ed Webb, and Eric Grubb.
The Upper Chesapeake Community Band will host a 20 Year Celebration Concert on Saturday, April 5 at 3 p.m. at Janes United Methodist Church. Admission is free. Donations will be accepted. The band will play pieces that have played throughout the years. You can also find the band on facebook and youtube.com.
This concert will mark the farewell conductor performance for Mary White. Anthony Condoluci and Alexander Scott will take over the duties directing the band. White, who began directing the band during its first year, will have a new role.
"I'm sitting down and going to play," said White who will play in the baritone section.
She will have the title of conductor emeritus. She came to the band with a background in music education. She brought three instruments to her first rehearsal. "I saw an 11-year-old playing next to a 60 some year old. I said that's a community band, young and old making music together. I enjoy the family atmosphere. This is the band family," added White.
Facts about Upper Chesapeake Band's 20 year history:
• The band has given 295 concerts.
• The practice venues have been Rising Sun Middle School, Janes Methodist Church, St. Agnes Church and currently, West Nottingham Presbyterian Church.
• Over the years, 233 people have been part of the band. Flutes players have been the majority with 43.
• The band has marched in the Havre de Grace July parade for 18 consecutive years. They have played at both the North East Park and Calvert Manor Healthcare for 19 years.
• The band performed at Camden Yards in 1997, performing The National Anthem for an audience of 35,000.
• The band has played at more than 70 venues. And marched in 52 parades.
• Band members have ranged in age from 11 to 82.
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