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Kingsport Community Band welcomes new members throughout the year

Chelsey Bishop • Sep 19, 2016 at 4:30 PM

Ellen Finney timidly walked into her first rehearsal with Kingsport Community Band in the early 1980s with only a little musical training and a flute in hand. Throughout the years of weekly rehearsals and regular performances, Finney finds her hobby relaxing among the group of welcoming friends.

Founded in 1907, the 30-member band provides a musical outlet for people in the Greater Kingsport area who own an instrument and want to play in a band. Talent ranges from band directors, college music majors, former middle school and high school band members to adults who recently picked up music for the first time.

Scot Fleming serves as the director of the Kingsport Community Band, as well as band director at Gate City Middle School. Fleming wants people to experience - or remember - the camaraderie and excitement that can only be found in a band setting.

“We love getting invited to play at events because, as band people, we enjoy it,” said Fleming. “I get to experience it everyday as a director with my kids at the school, but if you’re in the non-musical workplace, then you miss that band experience. Now, as adults, it’s our stress reliever and our down time. It’s the time we have to sit with our band friends and play band music, yet again.”

Fleming started playing the trumpet in 1975 and has always found great joy in playing. As a director, his repertoire includes marches, jazz and other music that has been arranged for bands, such as Broadway show tunes and classical tunes.

Nancy Childers of Big Stone Gap, Va., has been a member of the band for the past 14 years. A flute player since elementary school, Childers claims her time with the band as her mental health break of the week.

“We’re like old band kids,” she said. “Just like Fleming always says, ‘You don’t change, you just get wrinkles.’ We come to have fun, play around and go through the music. Then some of us close down the ice cream shop. There’s no stress or pressure. Just a nice relief from the everyday workload.”

Music as a lifelong passion spans generations. Recent college graduate Stephen Arnold joined the band within the past year as a trumpet player. Arnold realized he has a natural talent for the trumpet in the sixth grade, played throughout school, until he got his degree in trumpet performance from Tennessee Tech University. He found out about the community band when he came home looking for work.

“The community band here is an awesome organization that Kingsport has for all age musicians,” Arnold said. “We have the opportunity to continue playing. Anyone can join. You don’t even necessarily have to have played an instrument in a school band. If you own an instrument and want to come learn, it’s very low pressure. Everyone here is nice and friendly.”

Even retired band directors enjoy using the opportunity to stay active playing music. Howard Rohrer, 80, has been playing the clarinet since he was 12 years old. In Maryland, he played throughout middle and high school, in the Navy band after graduating, then at the University of Maryland while he received both his undergraduate and masters in music. He was an elementary and middle school band director up until he retired. Today, he plays in both the Kingsport and Johnson City community bands.

“The community bands keep me playing,” said Rohrer. “The performances are a lot of fun. I enjoy going around town playing concerts.”

The Kingsport Community Band's next performance is as the opening act for the Fall Folk Arts Festival at The Exchange Place at 10 a.m., Sept. 24. The band will be playing marches, Spanish numbers and a variety other music. Admission for the festival is $3 for ages 12 and over. Children under 12 are admitted free.

Kingsport Community Band welcomes new members, regardless of talent and age, throughout the year. Rehearsals are Thursday evenings, from 7:30 to 9 p.m., in the Dobyns-Bennett High School Orchestra classroom. To join the band or request a performance at a local event, visit KingsportBand.wix.com/KCBand or email [email protected]