Playing for keeps: Hollidaysburg Community Band celebrates 60 years

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Nancy Stevenson of Hollidaysburg was a teenager when she joined what is today called the Hollidaysburg Community Band.

Sixty years later, the original member, who plays the clarinet, will help celebrate the band’s anniversary with a concert that includes student musical groups at the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School auditorium Monday evening. It will feature the band playing with the Hollidaysburg Area Junior High Symphonic Band, directed by Kris Laird, and the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High Symphonic Wind Ensemble, directed by Scott Sheehan.

“Each band is going to play a couple selections on their own, and then the community band will combine to do a number with just the high school wind ensemble, and then we will finish the entire concert with all three bands together on stage playing a medley of patriotic tunes,” Doug Stephens, community band director, said.

The community band averages about 50 to 60 members, he said. Having completed sixth grade is the only age requirement.

“We have all ages in the band. Some kids are still in school and some have retired and some have been there a long time, like myself. It’s a good group,” Stevenson said.

The band was once known as the Hollidaysburg Alumni Band, formed in 1953 by the late Elliott Treese, and would play at places such as nursing homes, and first marched and then rode in a bandwagon for parades, which they still do today, Stevenson said.

She said Treese was her music teacher through grade school, junior and senior high school, and “we always had such a good time playing, so it just stuck with me, and playing in the band is something you take with you the rest of your life … the fellas can play football, but after they get so old, they can’t do that, but band is something you can do forever,” she said, with a laugh. “It’s just an enjoyable time.”

Jack Sears was the band’s director between Treese and Stephens, who owns Bandman in Altoona and took over as the band’s director in the mid-2000s.

“I’m just excited to be a part of the group regardless of the anniversary, but I think it’s neat that it’s been able to survive since its inception 60 years ago,” Stephens said. “You can imagine how things have changed over the last 60 years in the Hollidaysburg community – in terms of whether there’s support for the arts, or local musicians are able to be involved based on various factors – and the fact that there’s only been three directors in the 60-year history says volumes, I think, too, for the strength of the group and the depths of these positions.”

The band shell at Canal Basin Park, dedicated in 2007, is the band’s home base, where in the summer practices and four concerts are held – Memorial Day, the last Sundays in June and July and Labor Day. All concerts are scheduled for 7 p.m., except for Labor Day, which will be held at 6 p.m.

“In the summertime, it’s just a beautiful setting because it’s in the evening … and by that time, the suns’s starting to go down,” Stevenson said. “It’s beautiful. You’re sitting on the lawn, and there’s trees around and it’s next to the [water] and it’s really nice.”

The Blair County Commissioners recognized the Hollidaysburg Community Band with a proclamation at their meeting Tuesday.

“It’s a great asset and contributes to the quality of life in our community,” commissioner Diane Meling said.

Cathy Lingenfelter, the public relations committee chair, who also plays clarinet in the band, said the band has a scholarship program for students, and the National Association of Music Merchants named Hollidaysburg as one of the best communities for music education in 2013 and 2014.

The band’s longevity is rooted in the community.

“The anniversary itself, I think, is an amazing thing to get out there to the public, because it is a group of volunteer people who use their own time to keep the band together and to be able to do that for 60 years consecutively … that’s a lot to be said about the community and the people that live in the community, as well,” Lingenfelter said.

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.