It was a dream come true for local high school band instructors, Mark Loewen and Murray Lawrence, to be able to give high school students the option to continue playing their instrument after graduation, while also bringing in other musicians from the region to form a Community Concert Band.

SRSS band director Mark Loewen says, over the inaugural year, they've had to bring in more chairs, as more instrumentalists signed up to be part of the band.

Back in October of 2022, there were around 35 individuals who showed up for the first rehearsal. Since January 2023, there are now around 55 members of the Community Concert Band between the ages of 12 and 70 years old.  

Loewen says, for part of the spring session, Beth Janzen, who is finishing up her education degree in instrumental music and music teaching has taken the podium for a few Thursday evenings. Then besides Loewen, the other directors include Toban Janzen (CMS), Markus Goertzen (SMS), Keira Wychnenka (Mitchell MS), and Murray and Crystal Lawrence. 

One may think that's a rather expansive age range, but he says there’s also a wide range in demographics.  

“We have businessmen and businesswomen, and we have housewives and stay-at-home-dads, and we have everything in between. It's a really wide variety of people in the room. It’s a true community concert band.” 

Loewen continues, “Although we hit on a lot of different types of people that come into the room, everybody still has the same desire. To make music and to do it with other people and we see the value of doing that and they see the therapeutic value of doing that. I have people that come to me just about every rehearsal and say, “This is exactly what I need. This is the highlight of my week because this is giving me relief from the stresses of life or this is addressing an emotional need inside of me. So, I feel we are meeting an emotional and a mental health component in a lot of people's lives right now.”

Mark Loewen directing the Community Concert BandMark Loewen directing the Community Concert Band

Looking back to the time the Community Concert Band was still in its organizational stage and then seeing how far everyone in the band has come, Loewen says,  

“It's very gratifying and encouraging. You know that instrumental music at the community level is dead and so it’s nice to know that as a High School band director, to think that my students will never again play their instruments after they leave my program, well, that's a bit deflating. But knowing that there is the possibility as well as the desire out there for continuing playing their instruments after they're done with me in high school, well, that's very gratifying and validating, actually.”  

Loewen confesses, “So on a personal level, it's very meaningful. Yeah. And I think it's good for the community. And I'm hearing that it's good for the members of the group as well. So yeah, we get a lot of satisfaction out of knowing that this is happening and that it seems to be pretty successful, and I think we'll get a lot of people coming back next year, plus we've got people that are currently wanting to join now. But we're telling them that we have a few rehearsals left before our spring concert and that they should wait till the next intake. And so, we have people on the waiting list that want to get in.” 

Loewen notes they are still having fun even as their first year wraps up.  

“Sure, It's getting a little bit more serious in rehearsals like, “We need to come on, guys, we need to get this done. We need to be practicing between rehearsals and that sort of thing.” But I think we're still having a lot of fun.  There is a lot of joy in the room when we’re rehearsing, and people are just happy to be there. It's just kind of an infectious thing that people just are really enjoying the process of making music together and in community.” 

Loewen notes, after the spring concert in the middle of April, the Community Concert Band conductors will take some time to assess the first six months, and they are positive rehearsals will start up again in October.  

“This will just give everything a chance to settle and then we can get started. I think that's where I would like to see it going, professionally I mean. Right now, the conductors make up the leadership of this group and September is a nutty month for us. And so, having a little bit of space between the beginning of school and when we get started with the community concert band, makes sense.”

Community Concert Band members range in age from 12 to 70 years old.Community Concert Band members range in age from 12 to 70 years old.

To wrap up the inaugural Community Concert Band year, Loewen notes they are preparing for a Spring Concert in the middle of April.  

“We do have a concert coming up on April 13 at the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum auditorium. We will have a huge variety of music. Everything from very serious, somber, and sacred music to crazy out-there-wacky-stuff. We have a piece that’s based entirely on metal instruments. We have an Albanian dance that’s just meant to get people up and dancing. Oh, my goodness. Yeah, we hit everything in this concert. There’s a big, big variety of music.”  

Loewen notes that the MHV auditorium is a nice acoustical space, but they actually chose the facility because “we're a community group. We're not a school group, we're not a church group, we're a community group and we kind of figured, “What better venue in town than the MHV, right?”  

Loewen hopes they’ll have a packed room. “At Christmas, we were blown away by how many people showed up at Clearspring Centre and I hope we’ll have the same problem again.” 

Being a part of the Community Concert Band has been a dream come true, “It's been my pleasure. It is really a refreshing part of my week and I think we're all very eager to show off what we've been doing. So yeah, please come out to our concert. I think those who will come out will not be disappointed.” 

Community Concert Band Spring Concert – April 13, 2023 – MHV Auditorium – 7pm. Tickets are $10ea. Students $5. Tickets are sold at the door only.