Features — 03 May 2012
MSU Town & Gown Community Band

Marches, patriotic selections, Broadway showstoppers, great standards and classic literature from the golden age of the American concert band will fill the band room at Murray State during rehearsals of the newly organized Murray State University Town & Gown Community Band.

More than 80 volunteers have signed up for the group, which will be directed by Dr. Todd E. Hill, director of jazz ensembles at MSU. The band is being sponsored by the MSU Town & Gown Association under the leadership of Mark Welch, coordinator. The band is open to adults and college students as well as regional high school musicians who have earned a seat in an all-district band through previous auditions.

“The principal goal of the band will be to bring together the community and the university through music. The musicians will enjoy playing these selections and the audiences will enjoy hearing them. The music has been selected to have as wide a listener appeal as possible,” said Hill. “Scripts will enable the audience members to know a bit more about the music and the composers who wrote it. Each concert will begin with the ‘National Anthem’ and will close with ‘My Old Kentucky Home’… it is really going to be a classic community band in that sense.”

Players of wind and percussion instruments are still welcome to join the band. Those individuals should contact Hill by email at thill@murraystate.edu or by calling his office at (270) 809-6337. A link for registration may also be found on Facebook under the group “Town & Gown Community Band.”

Rehearsals will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. each Tuesday evening in the MSU Band Room (Room 316 in the Price Doyle Fine Arts Building) beginning May 15 and continuing throughout the month of June.

Two concerts on campus will be open to the public — the first on Tuesday, June 5, at 6:30 p.m. on the front lawn of Lovett Auditorium. Audience members are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to spread on the ground to enjoy the performance. The second will be on Saturday, June 30, at Roy Stewart Stadium in conjunction with Freedom Fest as a lead-in to the fireworks display.

“We have a tremendous library of music from which to draw upon for our concert series. We were able to purchase the concert band library from Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn., when that institution became part of the University of Memphis. Dr. Derek Jones, director of bands at Calloway County High School was the chair of the department of music there in addition to serving as director of bands. When he learned of our desire to re-establish the community band, he recommended that Todd check into the possibility of acquiring the library that he had built up there during his tenure” Welch said.

Hill has 25 years of experience as a band director with positions in the public schools of Milan, Tenn., and at Northwest Mississippi Community College, Boise State University and the University of the Cumberlands, where he was director of bands before accepting his current appointment at MSU in 2006. He played in the MSU Summer Community Band from 1980-95.

The MSU summer community band, which ended about 10 years ago traced its roots back to the original summer band, according to Dr. Roger Reichmuth, retired chair of the department of music at Murray State. “Summer band, orchestra and chorus were a part of the MSU curriculum in the 1950s and 1960s. The band concerts were performed outside in several locations including the ‘porch’ of the old fine arts building, the town square and Kenlake State Park. The late Paul W. Shahan, director of Band from 1957-78, labeled them ‘Straw Hat Concerts.’”

The summer community band was established after the summer band was no longer feasible for the university’s curriculum. Through the years the band was directed by MSU faculty including Gerald Welker, Dennis Johnson and Roger Reichmuth. For several seasons regional music teachers served as guest conductors.

“I am very excited that Dr. Hill has agreed to help resurrect our community band as director. This is the perfect kind of effort for the Town & Gown Partnership to support, and the overwhelming interest by area musicians validates the investment and work it has taken to bring back this tradition,” Welch said. “I’m dusting off my grandfather’s alto saxophone that my older son Marshall and I both played in high school. I can’t wait to make music again.”

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