The Oakhurst Community Band will present a free “Celebrate America” patriotic concert at 6:30 p.m. this Sunday at the Mountain Christian Center. The 50-member band will open the program with “The Star Spangled Banner” and, for the third year in a row, the concert will be emceed by Chaplain-Colonel Steve Eddy.
Other pieces included in the program include “Amazing Grace,” “Salute to Armed Forces,” “Stars and Stripes,” and the trombone section will be featured in “Cool Blues for Trombones.”
Mary Posluch will be the featured vocal soloist with the jazz band set and will lead the audience in “The Ultimate Patriotic Sing-Along.”
While some of the band members are seniors in high school and will depart for college following the concert, others have been members of the band since its inception sometime around 1997.
Among those long-time members are Alan Graas, Berl Howell, Jim Kirin, Pat Mierkey, Chris Mosher, Marcia Souza and Ted Strauss.
“We have been fortunate to increase in size over the years,” said Mosher, one of the early band members who first learned to play trumpet in fourth grade and continued through high school and college. He now plays baritone in the band.
“At first, we were quite small and that limited the music we could play and our sound was thin,” Mosher said. “By 1994 we had 24-28 players and at this point we average close to 50. A strength has always been the acceptance of basically all players. We have had junior high students to persons in their 90s. We have people who haven’t played since high school who take up music again.”
Mosher said the lack of egos has also been a strength of the band.
“People get a chance to play different parts within their section, and experienced players help less experienced players,” Mosher explained. “There is a feeling of camaraderie within the group. The group supports the successes (music and life) of other members.”
“We originally did the concert in the park which is why this concert begins at 6:30 p.m.,” band director Randy Hyatt said. “Those first concerts in the park were followed by a plan to perform in the Yosemite High School gym, but that was the year of several fires in the area and the gym was taken over by firefighters and personnel. So, Mountain Christian Center Pastor Terry Cederblom said, ‘you can come over to our place’ and we’ve been there ever since. We thank God for air conditioning.”
Howell has been with the community band for 20 years. He started playing the trumpet in the third grade. A friend in Ventura had a dixieland jazz band and when he heard Howell used to play, he gave him a trumpet and let him “doddle” around while the jazz band practiced.
“From this sparked the drive to start the Yosemite Jazz Band when we moved to Bass Lake,” Howell said.
Clarinetist Souza began playing in sixth grade. Music was a part of her life from an early age as her mother played the piano and church organ and was a piano teacher and her father played the guitar and sang.
“In the late 1990s, when Mike Corrigan started the band, it was more students than adults. We have been fortunate to have good, committed directors. They choose good music and guide us through learning the music and performing it,” Souza said.
Percussionist Kirin began playing at the age of 10. “My grade school band teacher convinced me to try it,” he said.
He explained that he plays percussion instruments because, “I didn’t want to blow on a horn and run out of breath.”
Alan Graas has been a part of the Oakhurst Community Band since the beginning.
“The beginning of the band is hard to determine as there were several attempts to start and keep one going in the 1990s,” he said. “Finally, about 1997, Loren Callan (deceased) started a new community band and this time, with 12 musicians, it was off and running. About half the players were students who really enjoyed the opportunity to play with experienced musicians.”
The band was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation on Feb. 11, 2002. YHS became the permanent “home” for the band where they practice on Monday nights. Members continue to work with students providing them with free lessons, music and instruments.
“I find it difficult to describe how much the band has meant to me, personally. It is so much more than an outlet to play my saxophone,” Graas said. “Playing as a team, watching young students grow and the roar of the audience at our concerts are all part of it. But the music ... it calms my soul and encourages me in every area of my life.”
The band has grown not only in size but also in its ability to perform music with varying degrees of difficulty.
“The first time the group played outside in the park years ago, it was a disaster,” Mosher said. “Playing outside is very different than playing inside. Then later, playing successful concerts in the park, such as the one with members of Sons of the San Joaquin was very gratifying. The difficulty level of music we are able to play well is getting higher. The first time we played the theme from Superman, it was an achievement. It stretched us.”
The band relies on business and individual support with sponsors ranging from $100 to $1,000.
Details: www.oakhurstband.com or (559) 760-3849.