"Performance Ideas From The Past"

NOTES DA CAPO - By John Puffenbarger
March 1995

John Philip Sousa arranged concert programs which featured a wide variety of music from classics to common street melodies--anything he thought his audiences would appreciate. He featured soloists on practically all instruments; his philosophy was to entertain and not just educate the public. Over the years West Virginia band directors have tried to make their concerts more interesting by adding showmanship. One director always used an announcer to help explain the music and to keep the performance flowing.

Several years ago Harold Glasgow, band director at Man High School, thought it would be interesting to add special lighting to enhance his band concert. Lacking enough money to purchase stand lights, he used various resources to make them by hand. Band members cut holes in the end of cans and added fixtures and wire which were donated by an electrical shop. During the concert the lights were raised or lowered according to the mood of the music being performed, thus adding a dimension to the performance.

Bob Hill liked to have guest artists perform with his Morgantown High School Band. One such soloist was the renowned trumpet artist James Burke. Another famous guest was Meredith Wilson. Wilson gave a one-man show describing his days with the Sousa band and explaining how he wrote the Broadway musical, The Music Man.

Harold Davis enjoyed inviting other schools to have exchange concerts with his St. Marys High School Band. His band would travel to another town, have lunch at the local high school, and perform an afternoon concert for the student body. After giving an evening concert for the community, his students would stay in the homes of local band members and then return home the next day. A few weeks later St. Mary's would reciprocate by serving as the host school.

During the 1960s the West Virginia Bandmasters Association encouraged band directors to mail concert programs to area band directors in advance of their concerts so that colleagues could attend. Phil Bowers, Clarksburg Victory band director, always reminded directors that they could attend his concerts free by showing either their WVBA or MENC membership cards.

At a Fairmont Senior High School concert, director Walter Moore created a special tffect by having a hidden fan blowing the American flag as the band opened by playing the "Star Spangled Banner." Henry A. Mayer would have the stage curtain closed before the program began. The curtain was pulled as the Clarksburg Washington Irving High School Band began to play the opening march.

The Cameron high School Band always invited the board of education members to their concerts. Following the program they were invited to the band director's home for refreshments. Frank Schroder would invite visiting bands to combine with his Parkersburg "Big Red" band for playing the National Anthem at home football games. Earl McConnell, Sr. turned his East Fairmont High School band concerts into elaborate Broadway productions and packed the school auditorium for four nights each spring. He had discovered the Sousa philosophy: "A concert is more than a mere concert -- it is a dramatic performance, a stirring lesson in patriotism, and a popular musical event, all on the same program."

Any additional ideas? Please send them and other items of historical interest to John Puffenbarger, WVMEA Historian, PO Box 6, Buckhannon, WV 26201.