Senior Bandsmen – This Is How You Do It

Senior Bandsmen – This Is How You Do It

I have had a recent experience and the way it has turned out is would be a benefit to all Senior Bandsmen.  To be a Senior Bandsman there are certain things you need to do and this is one of them.  Are you ready?

Sycamore Community Band

Sycamore Community Band summer concert
Sycamore Community Band playing a summer concert

As you many know I play for a community band called the Sycamore Community Band that is based in the northern part of Hamilton County in Ohio. This group is one of the better community bands in the Cincinnati area and I greatly enjoy playing with them. The band was formed in 1974 and has continuously been under the direction of Peter Metzger.

Let Me First Say a Few Words About Our Director

Pete Metzger conduction the Sycamore Community Band on Bastille Day in Montgomery Ohio
Pete Metzger conducting the Sycamore Community Band

Let me say a few words first about our director, Pete Metzger. I do not know you if you have been fortunate enough to have a director like Pete. Pete is an old Navy guy who graduated from and performed in the band from the Naval Academy. Pete was born back in the 30’s. The combination of his age and time in the services academy, make for a broad knowledge of bands and their music. I have to tell you, I love playing in Pete’s band and make no mistake, it is definitely “Pete’s Band”. Pete has broaden my musical knowledge and his discipline has made me a better musician.

Maybe you have one of these rare individuals heading up one of your local bands. You need to cherish them and learn all you can. With them will go the end of an era.

The Opportunity

After a rehearsal this past winter, Pete pulled us aside and presented the sax section with an opportunity.

Picture of the members of the Sycamore Community Band's saxophone section.
The Sycamore Sax Band

Pete said that come the summer concert season, there was one venue that was booking the Sycamore Community Band for two 2-hour concerts. He said that he did not want to repeat the same program on the second concert. He was going to get some ensembles together to work up a featured number to play at this second concert. How would our saxophone section (there are currently six of us) like to play one of those numbers?

The Preparation

I told Pete that I would be in charge of finding the material and preparing it with the section. Look, had I ever done this before?; No. But there was really nothing to lose and much to gain. I also believe that most people rise to “Esprit De Corps”. Loosely translated it means ” a feeling of pride, fellowship, and common loyalty shared by the members of a particular group. ” Everyone really wants to feel that they are part of a team. And my fellow saxophone players rose to meet this challenge.

Where To Start? – YouTube

When it comes to searching on the internet, I must admit, I have gotten rather lazy. I used to look up and read many different articles on what I was searching for. Now I just turn to YouTube. YouTube on my phone, on my desktop, and on the big screen in the family room. Yep, pretty lazy (but fun!)

My searching for an acceptable tune for the the sax band’s big debut led me to a fellow saxophonist, Quinn Levy. He had produced a saxophone sextet arrangement of the old 60’s pop hit, Runaround Sue by Dion.

Saxophone sextet arrangement of Runaround Sue by Quinn Levy

Practice, practice, practice

I handed out the sheet music to the sax band back in January. We started rehearsing the piece together soon thereafter. We came about an hour before the weekly rehearsal of the Sycamore Community Band. We would spend about 30 minutes or so working on the piece. We did this about once every two weeks. It was not a hard piece to learn but we soon found out there was always some little twists and turns that would trip us up. Working out these areas of the song turned into a very collaborative effort, which was one thing that surprisingly I enjoyed the most. Everybody pitched in to do whatever needed to be done to get Runaround Sue up on her feet.

After we got Runaround Sue to a point, we asked Pete Metzger to give a listen and offer suggestions on how to produce a better performance of the piece. This is where having a guy like Pete is such an asset to what we were doing. As I said before, Pete knows all types of band music and he has seen it all. His constructive criticisms helped us lock in and improve the piece.

The Big Day

Well, the big day had finally arrived. Union Township Summer Concert Series was having the Sycamore Community Band back for our second concert of the summer at the amphitheater on the evening on July 6th. The Sycamore Sax Band kicked off the second half of the program.

Tell me what you think:

OK, So What Is My Point

My point is, if you thought this looked like both hard work and a lot of fun, you would be right on both counts. And look, you and me are both Seniors and when are you going to get an opportunity like this? Was it perfect?: No! But it was a life experience I would have never had otherwise. It was full of work, some surprises, and it will make for a very good memory. I think that Paul Simon said it best, ” A time it was, and what a time it was, it was…”

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Questions? Did you do something like this? What was it like? Please let me know.

One thought on “Senior Bandsmen – This Is How You Do It

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