By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Music has long been a part of America’s culture – and more importantly, its history. Students have been taught about how Francis Scott Key was inspired to write our national anthem … and perhaps they also learned how Katharine Bates composed the words to “America the Beautiful” after experiencing the view from Pike’s Peak … or perhaps how the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” came about from patriotic sentiments stirred by the Civil War. So it seems only natural that patriotic music is so well represented during 4th of July celebrations. And so it will be this year as the Shinnston Community Band (SCB) offers its annual concert in the park at Ferguson Park in Shinnston tomorrow evening (Friday, July 1st at 7:30 p.m.).
This year, however, will be an extra special celebration for SCB because it will also commemorate the band’s 20th anniversary! Yes, it has been two decades since a few passionate people brought this wonderful musical group together. It was a ‘dream’, and now, certainly a dream that has come true! What began as a group of a scant 20 people or so has grown into a 70-piece orchestra … and wouldn’t those original “dreamers” be so proud?!
Richard Herndon, who has been involved with the community band for 13 of those 20 years, currently serves as SCB’s President, and he says that what makes the band so great is that its members truly love music and want to be a part of it.
“But what makes it unique is that nobody gets paid; they’re all volunteers,” Herndon stated. “In fact, you could say that many of our memberspay to play! By that, I mean that our musical directors and all of our members give a lot … they give their time for rehearsals; they travel – some quite a distance – to practices and to concerts; and they also maintain their instruments. It’s work, but it’s a labor of love.”
SCB originally started as the Shinnston High School Alumni Band, but after a couple of seasons, they learned that they couldn’t keep a band going all year round without more membership, so it was opened to members outside the Shinnston community. Now, members come from even beyond Harrison County; members hail from Marion, Monongalia, Tucker, Upshur, and Barbour counties to name a few.
“That is a tremendous footprint!” Herndon said, adding, “And our members range in age from 13-year olds to 84-year olds. Through the years, many of these kids who have grown up in our organization have gone on into the music field in college. And perhaps the greatest thing is that after 20 years, some of our members are generational. We have husbands and wives, parents and children, and in some cases, even grandchildren now a part of SCB.”
Thanks to grants, SCB has been able to obtain a truck … and when they outgrew that, a trailer was obtained – one big enough to carry 80 chairs and music stands along with percussion equipment when they perform a concert out of town.
The Shinnston Community Band’s existence is not an inexpensive one either. Yes, even the music is costly … but the payoff has been great. SCB has established a highly respected reputation as a musical organization.
“We have a cooperative agreement with Lincoln High School,” Herndon continued. “Our tympanis belong to our band, but we allow Lincoln High School to use them. In like fashion, they generously allow us to hold our rehearsals in their band room. We borrow from one another and it’s been a great tradeoff.”
The band, during the past 20 years, has had four very talented directors – Shinnston resident and respected musician Randall Hall, followed by former Lincoln band directors Louis Oliverio and Bill Way, and currently, Michael Cale. All have had some affiliation with Harrison County.
SCB rehearses every Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. during the spring/summer and fall/winter seasons. However, they do take two breaks during that time so that members may enjoy a family vacation; and another break time is during the snowy winter months to avoid unsafe travel.
The band is made up of both amateur and professional musicians, and the more experienced musicians act as mentors to the younger ones. New members are always welcomed!
“We are a very close-knit group, and we’ve come a long way,” Herndon said. “I think we have brought good publicity to Shinnston and I’m sure the community is proud of that. In addition, we continue to bring free concerts to the community and hopefully, lots of enjoyment – and all free of charge!”
Be sure to head to Ferguson Park on Friday evening for the concert. Two former directors will join the band and each will direct a piece that evening. And, in addition to the traditional patriotic tunes, there may be a few surprises – perhaps a Glenn Miller tune or two and maybe some Star Wars music! Expect to see some spectacular fireworks at the conclusion of the concert!
SCB will present another concert on Sunday, July 3rd at Paletine Park in Fairmont at 1 p.m.
Remember, the Shinnston Community Band is always appreciative of donations, which they use to equip them with new music or instrumental needs, and since the Shinnston Community Band is non-profit, your contributions are tax deductible.
Herndon concluded, “The Shinnston Community Band has been very successful during its 20-year history and we want to see that continue for years to come!”
To learn more about the Shinnston Community Band, visit their website at www.shinnstonband.com or become a Facebook follower by visiting Shinnston Community Band.