Bridging the Gap

editor@sierrastar.comJune 26, 2013 

Emily Anderson, 13, and Bill Wagner, 83, are members of the 50-member Oakhurst Community Concert Band that will perform a free concert, "Celebrate America," at 6:30 p.m. this Sunday at Mountain Christian Center.

BRIAN WILKINSON/SIERRA STAR — Brian Wilkinson/Sierra Star

They may be 70 years apart in age, but Bill Wagner, 83, and Emily Anderson, 13, have one thing in common — The love of music.

Wagner is the oldest and Anderson is one of the youngest members of the 50-member Oakhurst Community Concert Band, and both are looking forward to Sunday's (June 30) free 6:30 p.m. "Celebrate America Concert" at Mountain Christian Center, 40299 Highway 49.

Using enhanced video choreography for "music you can see," the concert will feature great American folk songs, famous marches, a 'big band' medley of songs and an armed forces medley to recognize and honor veterans.

Anderson, who will be entering eighth grade with Mountain Home School Charter in the fall, has been playing the trombone since she was eight.

She used to listen to music from the 30s and 40s that her grandfather Warren Anderson played on his CD player. At the age of eight, she liked a specific part of "In The Mood," and found out it was played on the trombone by Glenn Miller.

"I was inspired by Glenn Miller, and that's when I decided to take up the trombone," Anderson said.

Her grandfather passed away a year and a half ago, but her short musical journey has already taken her to the Yosemite High School band and the community band. Due to her musical skills, YHS music director Randy Hyatt, with the recommendation of Pat Mierkey, Yosemite's assistant music director, allowed the seventh grader to join the high school band.

"Mr. Mierkey has helped me a lot during the past two years," Anderson said. "He gave me my first trombone and I would not be where I am today without all his help."

"It's wonderful to be with the high school band," Anderson said. "I have made so many friends in the band and all the band members are awesome. They have all treated me just like any of their other friends."

Two others in the band play trombone — Sophomore Jordan Berg and senior Jill DeGrasse.

"I love Jordan and Jill to pieces," Anderson said. "They are like a brother and sister to me and it is fun and great to be able to play with them. They both have hilarious personalities that kind of fit with my personality."

In addition to practicing four days a week during the school year with the Yosemite High band, Anderson joined the community band that practices every Monday night.

She says the community band is different from the high school band because there are musicians with a lot more experience and they play harder songs.

Anderson said she enjoys playing with the older people in the community band like Mr. Wagner and tuba player Bob Curran.

"They are so fun to hang out with and are always telling great stories," Anderson said. "Every member of the band is so helpful. They are like family to me."

Anderson's mother Martha, is in charge of transportation, a large commitment since the family lives in Mariposa.

"I used to hang out at the YHS band room a lot because I worried about Emily being with the older students, but soon realized there was no need for me to stay around," Emily's mother Martha said. "The other band members are awesome and have treated Emily like a good friend. Emily has experienced so much at her age with both the high school band and the community band, such as playing under the direction of Fresno State conductor Dr. Gary P. Gilroy, playing with the YHS band at Great America and taking a tour of Stanford."

Part of the concert will highlight Big Band songs including "Moonlight Serenade," and "Memories of you."

"It's special because I get the chance to perform one of my grandads favorite songs, Moonlight Serenade," Emily said.

In addition to the trombone, she has taught herself to play the piano and bass guitar. The $600 limited edition Laguna Beach guitar was won by Dale Carlson in a raffle at Sierra Pines Church, who presented the guitar to Emily.

"He said he wanted me to have it — It was amazing and made me cry," Emily said.

She is now playing bass in the junior high worship team band.

Emily's father Bruce played trumpet in high school and she thinks she got the "musical nack" from him.

"I'm trying to get him to start playing again and join the community band," Emily said.

Wagner said he is proud of Emily.

"It is so encouraging to see young people with the same love of music as I had when I was young," Wagner said.

Wagner, who began playing at the age of eight in Southern California, plays clarinet in the band. "I was influenced by a friend who played in the high school band," Wagner said. "I thought it would be great to play in the marching band and get to go to football games for free."

Wagner attended Redlands University and got his degree in music education. After college, he went into teaching in Bakersfield, teaching music in elementary, junior high and at Arvin High School for five years. He moved to Oakhurst in 1976, the year YHS opened. He started teaching music at Bass Lake, North Fork and Wasuma Elementary Schools.

He retired after teaching music in the Mountain Area for 18 years.

"I loved being with the students and seeing them progress in music," Wagner said. "I would start with them as brand new musicians and then years later I would see them as outstanding musicians.

Wagner, who was one of the original musicians in the community band that formed about 15 years ago, enjoys his involvement with the band.

"I have a great appreciation of all the talent in the band and the community spirit of everyone," Wagner said. "There's nothing quite like being part of a group playing beautiful and fun music. For me, it's a privilege to be able to use my musical talents with the community band."

Wagner said having a community band playing a variety of high caliber music is a definite plus for this community."

Being a former music teacher, he is very supportive of music in the schools.

"I understand that schools are struggling with their budgets, but I hate to see funds being limited for the arts and music," Wagner said. "I have found that young people involved in music are often the highest caliber students in our schools. I appreciate the community's support of our school music programs and the community band."

"The June 30 concert is going to be something very special that I think everyone will enjoy," Wagner said.

The band rehearses on Monday evenings 6:30-8:30 p.m. during the concert season in the Yosemite High School band room and newcomers are always welcome.

The Oakhurst Community Concert Band is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public benefit corporation and relies on business and individual financial support. The Band hopes the public will consider a tax deductible donation, so that the band can continue to bring concert music to the community and assist local area music students. Checks may be mailed to Oakhurst Community Band, P.O. Box 2389, Oakhurst, Calif., 93644.

Details: Randy Hyatt, (559) 977-9782.

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