One local high-school band instructor is encouraged to know that organizing a Community Concert Band has created a highlight in the workweek for former and current band students.  

Mark Loewen says the group of 40 individuals has been meeting for the past four Thursday evenings and he couldn’t be more pleased with their progress.   

“So far, it's been just a riot,” says Loewen. “It's really been the highlight of my week. I keep hearing from people after rehearsals that it's the highlight of their week as well.  Every week I have somebody come up to me and say something to the effect that, “This is so meaningful for me” or  “This is the highlight of my week, I look forward to it so much,’ or “My mental health was suffering, and this is giving me a boost.” 

Loewen feels like the Community Concert Band is actually fulfilling a bit of a healthy role. “Like we've all been going through Covid and now coming out of it, for the most part, it’s been just the isolation business of COVID, and I think people have been desperate for some kind of a connection with other people and we're providing a connection point for people and for musicians who want to make music together.” 

He continues, “There's this synergistic energy that comes out of it and that connection between people when you make music together, when you are blending your sounds to make beautiful music, and everyone does their part to make up this really beautiful sound. These people, these musicians, understand that and they've come out of their holes to experience that again.” 

Loewen says, among the 40 band members, they’ve got a middle-school student and the oldest musician being close to 70 years old and then everything in between.  

“We have some house moms, and we have businesspeople and we have a bunch of band educators. We've got a number of current students and just a whole wide gamut of people that are coming from different backgrounds, doing different things in their regular life and they wanted to dust off their instruments and come back and play.” 

Loewen continues, “The only rule is, no complaining about how out of shape you are. We're all out of shape, and we are all going to strive to get back into shape together and we're going to just enjoy each other's company while making music.” 

For the first few months of Community Concert Band rehearsals, Loewen will be ‘beating the stick’, but then after Christmas, another one of the 6 directors who has committed to this group, will be taking over.  

Loewen says he’s been teaching High School Band for 27 years and was pleasantly surprised to find that about half of the members of the Community Concert Band are his former students.

High School band director is also directing the Community Concert Band in the inaugural sessionHigh School band director, Mark Loewen, is also directing the Community Concert Band in its inaugural session.

“Some of them have played together in the past, with a group of five or six who have graduated at the same time. It’s great to see them come rehearsals together and then afterwards they sometimes go have coffee together and there are connections forming like that.” 

When talking about the different instruments in the Community Concert Band, Loewen says they have a nice cross-section of really good instrumentation.  

“It's not like we have 40 flutes and two drums, we actually have a really good mix to make a good proper concert band, which was a bit of a relief 'cause we didn't know what we'd get.” 

That said, Loewen mentions that they are still looking for more individuals to join the Southeast Community Concert Band. “Since our first rehearsal four weeks ago, we’ve had one or two new musicians come out every night. These are individuals that have heard about it and they just come and join us. But we're still looking for people who want to play. We are very accepting of anyone.”  

When asked if there will be a performance where the public can come and enjoy their music, Loewen says they are planning on performing at Clearspring Centre in Steinbach on Saturday, December 3rd. It will be Christmas Sing-along in the mall hallways.  

“Anybody who wants to come and sing along is welcome to join in.  It'll be about an hour long and we'll play until our faces fall off". he says jokingly.

As to whether there will be a Spring Concert by this newly formed Community Concert Band, Loewen says, “We're just kind of taking that idea real slow right now.” 

So then, just what kind of music are these musicians learning, to which Loewen replies, “We're looking at a beautiful piece called “Ancient flower” by Yukiko Nisha Nishimura. which may not be very familiar to many, but we do have a Star Wars medley. We are also playing the Hockey Night in Canada theme song, the original one. We've got “Under the sea”. We've got a few songs by Canadian composers. So, it’s a real mix of fun, light stuff, but also a little bit of serious music.”  

Now to get all that music rehearsed and perfected, Loewen says they have sectional rehearsals with the other directors in the core group.  “This allows everyone to work on something. Let's say the trumpets had to work on, like figuring out strategies for getting back into shape or reminders of how to clean your trumpet and so on. So, they work on that during the sectional portion of our weekly rehearsals. I think it’s a good time, it's not wasted time. It's a valuable time.”  

Two of the musicians in the Community Concert Band spoke about their appreciation to the band instructors for organizing this group.

Community Concert Band member, Avery is thrilled to be playing her Baritone Saxophone againCommunity Concert Band member, Avery, is thrilled to be playing her Baritone Saxophone again

Avery graduated high school 12 years ago and was only too happy to pick up her Baritone Saxophone again. She says things got a bit tricky when it came to reminding the muscle in her mouth what they were supposed to do.

When asked how it feels to be part of the Community Concert Band she says, “ It feels wonderful. It might sound a bit cheesy to say, but it's almost a bit of a dream come true in the sense that, you know, I think not just myself, but for anyone who was really involved in band when they were in school can attest to the fact that, band really makes school what it is, for a lot of people. It's not just coming to learn anymore, you're coming to experience and feel and make and create music, and it makes this experience a bit magical.”

Another Concert Band member, Desiree, says it's been kind of like a mini-reunionAnother Concert Band member, Desiree, says it's been kind of like a mini-reunion

Desiree, another Community Concert Band member says she heard about the band through a friend. “He let me know that it was starting up. I also saw a story on Steinbachonlineline, so I jumped on it and here we are. “ 

Desiree says it feels good to hold a French Horn in her arms again. “Picking it back up again, it felt a little like coming home, but yeah, it did not take too long to get the fingering figured out and you know, how my lips were supposed to be and how my fingers were supposed to move.” 

She says, there are five musicians that were in band in the same year back in high school, “So it's kind of a mini-reunion coming back here every week.” Desiree continues, “It feels amazing. This is what I was wanting after high school, I missed it so much and so, to be able to sit down again together and play it (French Horn) just feels incredible.” 

When asked what she would say to other former-band students, Desiree says, “I would say, if you're on the fence, just do it. It's only one evening a week. The community in this concert band is amazing, everyone has been so supportive. I've talked to a few people who have had hesitations because they haven't played their instruments in years, and I mean, I haven't played mine either since high school and you just jump back into it. Everyone is patient with each other and yeah, we sound pretty good. Yeah. So I would say just, 'Do it'." 

@steinbach_online A New Hope for concert band musicians in Steinbach! Read the full story on #steinbachonline#steinbach #starwars #concertband #fyp ♬ original sound - SteinbachOnline