Summer Community Band is an Important Part of Music Education

Shane Fuller • Community BandMay 2022 • May 2, 2022

Summer for band directors and students provides a much-needed break from an often-hectic schedule. It can also give an opportunity to get a head start on the upcoming marching season. In addition to being director of bands at Liberty North High School, I am director of the Liberty Summer Community Band (LSCB). The group is comprised of high school and college students and adults of all ages. The individual performance level of the band spans from high school freshmen to adult professional musicians. We play four concerts between Memorial Day Weekend and the Fourth of July. The band has a one-hour rehearsal at 6 pm and then performs a concert at 7:30 pm the same evening. The band concerts are held outside on the steps of Liberty Justice Center. The acoustics of the pavilion provide a great outdoor concert experience and we have the auditorium at the high school in the event of inclement weather.

As the high school band director, I see many benefits provided by the LSCB. First is the social aspect. The LSCB atmosphere gives the students a relaxed environment outside the demands of music festivals and competitions to simply enjoy playing their instruments. It gives me the opportunity to check in with my students and continue to encourage them musically and personally. The students often huddle together during down time of a community band evening and socialize, thus reinforcing the camaraderie they share through music. They begin and continue friendships with students from other high schools that play in the group as well as college age and adult musicians who are members of LSCB. Some of our local private lesson instructors play in LSCB. It is a meaningful experience for high school students to sit next to their private teacher in a performance setting.

For each concert, most of the literature is in the grade 3-4 range with an occasional grade 5 that is familiar and accessible for the group. In one summer concert, the high school members of LSCB are exposed to an equal or greater amount of literature than in the entire school year. By the end of the season, the students will have read and performed over 30 compositions. We always try to “play to our audience” at LSCB concerts. We include classic works from the band repertoire that are important in the overall experience for high school band students. Each LSCB concert includes several marches, highlights from a Broadway show or movie film score, a solo concerto with band accompaniment, a piece with contemporary style such as jazz or pop, a heavier piece from the classic band repertoire, and at least one patriotic selection. It is not always possible to check each of these boxes during the school year with our festival and home performances and LSCB provides that opportunity. In addition, it is a great resource for students to work on their sightreading skills. With only one hour to prepare up to nine pieces, students are forced to become better readers and develop heightened instincts as an ensemble player.

Finally, with the wide age range in LSCB, the high school students get to see firsthand that music can be a lifelong activity. We have college age musicians in the band with some being involved in their college music programs and others that are not. We have young adults playing in LSCB with a great variety of playing ability including former all-state band members and others who were just solid section players in their high school band. We have adults coming from a wide range of occupations. We have older adults that are continuing to play their instruments well into their “golden years.” No matter their background, all share the love of music, playing in a band, and being a part of the band social community. 

If your students do not have access to a community band in your area, I would encourage you to create one. Start small with only one or two concerts. You could also decide to make it a non-performing reading band. Choose rehearsal and performance times that fit the majority of your students’ schedules and do not require a commitment that would discourage participation. Focus on the social and musical exposure elements of a community band to create interest and enthusiasm. This will lead to improved musical performance quality as your community band grows. You will not only provide a way to continue students’ musical progress over the summer, but you will also give your community the gift of live music. 

Shane Fuller is in his 29th year of teaching and has served as director of bands at Liberty North High School (Liberty, MO) since the school’s inception in 2010. His bands have received superior ratings at high school and middle school large group festivals every year during his tenure in Liberty Public Schools. The Liberty North Screaming Eagles Marching Band has performed in New York at the Statue of Liberty, as well as at the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C.

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