One of the most amazing things to me about the United States is the resiliency of a small (in numbers only) handful of dedicated people who like to play musical instruments and go to great lengths to continue to do so throughout their lifetimes. These individuals have gathered together in towns and villages of all sizes throughout this country and formed what are called 'community bands'. The typical community band is an assortment of people from all walks of life; retirees, doctors, lawyers, homemakers and a healthy number of former music teachers, high school band directors and such. The average community band is no gaggle of young kids sitting in a basement thinking they are playing music because they can collectively string together four chords on electric guitars. No, these community bands are comprised of a number of quality musicians, highly trained and skilled, with the common denominator of love for music being the cement that draws them together.
The net result of this collection of musicians is the creation of music; fine music, interesting and varied music as different in scope as the myriad of people who make up the bands. One of my favorite persons is Ray Will. Ray is a talented tuba player who plays in a couple of bands and orchestras. I know Ray because he sits next to me in the tuba section of the Manatee Community Band in Bradenton, Florida. Ray also doubles on the string bass on occasion for a smaller traditional dance band which plays a number of gigs in Bradenton and Sarasota each year. This band plays Glenn Miller-inspired type music. During a recent gig, the director of the dance band, Jay Smith, introduced the various members of the band after songs in which their particular instrument was featured. In introducing Ray, after several complimentary remarks Jay added "Ray is the oldest member of the band, ninety five years old." At that, Ray leaned over and whispered to me with a look of disdain on his face. "I won't be 95 for two more weeks."
To me, Ray's spirit epitomizes the spirit of community band music.