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by Libby James
How can you have a Fourth of July parade without a band, Bob Williams wondered, when the holiday came along and Williams’ hometown, Wellington, staged a great but music-free parade through town. He decided to do something about it.
He set to work inviting people he knew who played an instrument to form a band. It didn’t take long for Linda Anderson, longtime band director at Wellington Middle School, to get in touch with him. She and her students had previously made music for Wellington’s Fourth of July parade as a community service for more than 30 years, until she retired and there was no one to take over.
“Do you have a director?” Anderson quizzed Williams.
“Well, not really,” he replied.
“Well, you do now,” came Anderson’s response, and the Wellington Community Band came alive. Over time, they have had as many as 26 members ranging in age from nine to eighty-four. They give four concerts a year, events that those who live in Wellington and the surrounding area would not miss. They play a concert in the spring, march in the Fourth of July parade and then head to the park for a concert. In November, they honor veterans with a concert, and they finish out the year with a Christmas concert.
These days, the band meets for a couple of hours every Monday night to prepare for “Band by Request,” their Spring Concert to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on April 14 at Wellington Community Church, 8445 Third St. They put in at least 15 hours of practice for each concert.
“Can we play this one? This one?” band members kept asking, and that’s how Anderson came up with the name for the concert. The focus is on music from well-known films and includes tunes from Forrest Gump, Chariots of Fire, Apollo 13 and String of Pearls, with some jazz and boogie-woogie thrown in.
Concerts are free, and band members bring homemade goodies to sell at intermission. Every item costs a dollar, and all proceeds go to supporting the band.
The players are a diverse group. Some have been making music since they were very young, but many had put their instruments away, some for as long as 17 years, before joining the band. “There are no tryouts,” Anderson explains. “Everyone is welcome. Just show up.” In order to accommodate those with more experience, she has developed a system of levels between two and five, and their annual concerts reflect different levels of difficulty.
A recent rehearsal is missing concertmaster Diane Watkins, away on a ski trip. But the Johnson family was out in force. Grandpa Murell Johnson plays the tuba, his son, Craig, plays the euphonium, and his daughter, Emily Johnson, a seventh-grader at Wellington Middle School, plays the flute.
At that rehearsal, the music makers include a lawyer, a music therapy college professor, a full-time mom, a nursing teacher, a retired IT manager, an accountant, a former Woodward Governor employee and a physical education teacher. Trumpeter Jerome Haas was Anderson’s student in middle school, and now they do shows and play in a praise orchestra together.
Currently, there are about 15 regular band members, who play everything from an alto saxophone to flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, French Horn and percussion. Anderson, who calls herself a “percussionist by trade,” loves her players. “We have a common thread—our love of music,” she says.