The East Coast Band Conference - Wind Band’s best kept secret…
This past weekend I had the privilege of attending a small but exhilarating Band Conference in Reading, Pennsylvania, hosted by the Ringgold Band. The focus of the East Coast Band Conference is dedicated to preserving the history of the American Wind Band and preserving the value of our craft for generations to come.
I was made aware of the East Coast Band conference from a Facebook post by a young, talented conductor and band historian, Joshua Long. I recently became connected with Josh when I discovered a message he sent me in 2019 of a video of his performance of my transcription of Von Suppé’s March from Boccaccio. Although, I feel bad I missed the message four years ago, this chance discovery led me to this wonderful experience and a new friend.
The morning of the conference opened with a presentation by author and historian, John C. Mitchell, titled The Band Music of Gustav Holst: An Update. John shared new discoveries from his exhaustive research on Gustav Holst. In the session I discovered many things I had not been aware of, such as background on Holst’s arrangement of Bach’s Fugue of la Gigue, key performances by the BBC Wireless Military Band and their aid in elevating his music to greater awareness within the wind band community.
Jerry Rife followed with a presentation on Falcone at Michigan State University which included the accounts of students, colleagues and acquaintances as well as Rife’s own first hand accounts from when he occupied the office next door to Falcone’s during his tenure at Michigan State. The presentation provided valuable insights and anecdotes about the seminal conductor of the Michigan State Bands, including a humorous account of how his Baritone was “stolen” from his office one evening.
As I sat in the rehearsal hall of the Ringgold Band, whose history stretches back the middle of the 19th Century and happens to be the last band John Philip Sousa conducted, I was captivated to learn about the rich history of Pennsylvania bands. Judith Shellenberger and Art Himmelberger shared The History of the Repasz Band, a fellow Pennsylvania band whose history also dates back prior to the Civil War and was instrumental (yes… I meant to do that) in the campaigns of the Northern troops. Their band, like the Ringgold Band, has flourished and touched the hearts of generations of band enthusiasts.
I was thrilled to finally meet in person Jari Villanueva, who has greatly contributed not only to the wind band community but to countless veterans through the organization he founded, Taps Across America. Jari presented John Philip Sousa’s Christmas Gift to the United States, which detailed the story behind one of the march master’s most familiar compositions, The Stars and Stripes Forever. It was even more impactful as it was with the Ringgold Band that Sousa took the podium for the last time before his death and it was this composition which was the last piece he conducted!
Joshua Long then presented on a long-lost member of the wind band family, The Double-Bell Euphonium. Josh detailed the instrument's rise to become a member of the wind band family and its sudden disappearance in the Mid 20th Century. Along with the amusing history of this wind band oddity, Josh gave a wonderful demonstration to the conference attendees with a performance on a double-belled euphonium he refurbished himself.
Rounding out the morning of the conference was a presentation by Bill Rehrig on a valuable online resource for the wind band community, The Hoe Collection Online: Access and Hidden Gems. During the final moments of the morning session, Bill shared a remarkable gift to band director and wind band historians, The Robert Hoe Music Collection. Band enthusiast Robert “Bob” Hoe collected over his lifetime thousands of rare wind band compositions. At times, Bob would purchase entire music collections of bands that folded. Upon his death, his children, Polly Diane and Robert, wanted to find a way to preserve the collection and make it available to bands around the world. Bill Rerhig with the help of a team of band enthusiasts scanned Bob’s collection and the result is an online catalog of over 10,000 compositions from around the world. The Robert Hoe Music Collection is an amazing resource to the wind band community!
After a lovely lunch with conference attendees and presenters, all of us in attendance had the wonderful opportunity to sit in with the Ringgold Band under the direction of maestro Charles “Chuck” Ebersole. We read through many early, rare band compositions as well as some hidden gems!
The East Coast Band Conference is definitely one of the wind band community’s best kept secrets! To say, I had an amazing time would be an understatement. However, I was surprised more people were not in attendance to be a part of this amazing opportunity. I hope more of us in our community will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to be a part of the preservation of the American Wind Band.
If you are interested in learning more about the East Coast Band Conference and visiting future events, follow them on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1367452773290173