By Claire Stuart
“Music is the universal language of mankind.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Every culture has its music. It brings communities together, whether to play or to listen, and it is with us at every important event, from weddings to funerals and everything in between.
The Clarke County Community Band, sponsored by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors, the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, has been spreading music across the Shenandoah Valley for over 20 years.
Clyde Crosswell served as Conductor from the band’s inception in 1992 until 2000. He recalls that he was working with the high school band when some students, teachers, parents and community members expressed that they would like to get together and have a band. The music bug bites many people when they are still in grade school, and they go on to play in their high schools bands. But after high school, there are few opportunities to continue playing for those who don’t become professional musicians.
Crosswell himself began playing saxophone in the 5th grade and never left music behind. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and became a member of the U. S. Marine Corps Band, first as a player, then as a conductor, and eventually became its Director of Music. He served for 29 years, including the Viet Nam War.
The community band started with about 25-30 members and has grown to over 50, with 40 or more players participating in any given concert. It includes players of all ages, ranging from high-schoolers to seniors, at all playing levels and with various musical backgrounds.
Steve Stephens, Associate Conductor 1995-2009, also brought military band experience into the community band. A 28-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he served as Drum Major of the United States Air Force Band.
Former Conductor (2000-2009) John Ford was a music educator in public schools for 38 years.
Larry Correll, Conductor for the past four years, is a percussionist and organist with 40 years as a church musician and music educator. He is organist at the First Baptist Church in Winchester and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Education at Shenandoah University.
Jessica Tavenner teaches music at Boyce Elementary. In addition, she is Assistant Director for the Clarke County High School Marching Band. She took a break from the community band to accompany the marching band during their season but intends to return in November when the marching band season is done.
“I love our community band and have been in it off and on since I was in 7th grade,” she says. “I was Assistant Band Director for a while and now I am back to playing trumpet.”
Crosswell says that the band was founded to be inclusive. Anyone who wants to play in the band is welcome. There are no auditions and no membership fees.
“If they want to play, the band finds a place for them,” says Crosswell. “They find out themselves if they can make it or not, and some might decide it’s not for them. They self-select.”
The band tries to play one concert a month, and sometimes two, according to Conductor Correll. They have played at churches, schools and retirement communities, at the Balloon Festival, Apple Blossom Festival, and everywhere that there is celebration. Dixie Rhythm is a smaller subgroup of the band that plays jazz and plays for community groups at no charge. There is also a brass group that plays periodically at concerts.
Correll says that the band plays a variety of familiar pop music from l940s to the l980s and beyond, and patriotic tunes like God Bless America. They also feature a vocalist, John Hudson, who usually gets in a song or two. Currently, says Correll, they are working on a band arrangement of highlights from the movie “Frozen.”
A free Veterans’ Day concert is coming up at the Barns of Rose Hill on November ll. “We just did a 9/11 concert, which was a memorial,” says Correll, “but the Veteran’s Day concert will be a celebration of the people who served or are serving in our armed forces.”
Correll welcomes any prospective band members to come out for a rehearsal. They are held every Tuesday night at 7:30 in the Johnson Williams Middle School Band Room in Berryville.
He adds that the band is available for performances. See their web site for information: http://www.staggersorthodontics.com/clark_county_community_band.htm