Among band members from Concord are (l to r) Carol Messina, David Gaylin, and Laura Finkelstein. Photo by Laurie O'Neill

Concord Band tunes up for summer concert series

July 3, 2024

By Laurie O’Neill — Correspondent

Q: How do you get to 51 Walden? 

A: Practice.

That’s what some 65 musicians from Concord and surrounding towns do every week as the Concord Band prepares for its summer series and special appearances. 

On a recent Monday evening, the Band rehearsed at the Performing Arts Center on Walden Street. Though the members wore jeans and sneakers or shorts and sandals and chatted and laughed as they assembled their instruments, they sprang to attention at the conductor’s bidding. 

Brass, woodwinds, percussion, and strings built and soared as the strains of “America the Beautiful” filled the theater. After the fadeout, the members’ pride and pleasure were palpable.

The Concord Band performing “America the Beautiful.”

“I just love it,” said Concordian Laura Finkelstein, who joined in 1973. Finkelstein has been a musician pretty much her whole life and has played flute or piccolo in orchestras, concert bands, chamber ensembles, flute choirs, and pit orchestras.

Adds the freelance proofreader and editor, “Music is my life.”

Finkelstein’s back injury is limiting her mobility a bit as she recovers, but her passion for playing has not waned. She can play multiple instruments, including recorder, Renaissance flute, alto flute, bass flute, and crumhorn.

Strike up the (Concord) Band

The Band will perform at the July 4 “Picnic in the Park” at Emerson Playground and at a July 13 concert with the Lexington Bicentennial Band on the Battle Green there. Its July concert series is held at the group’s summer home, Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, which offers sweeping views of the Nashua River Valley. The Concord Band has been playing there every year (but one) since 1986.

Each of the 70- to 75-minute Fruitlands concerts will have a different theme: “Star Spangled Spectacular” on July 3; “Disney Animation and Video Game Music” on July 10; “Celebrating Two Masters: John Philip Sousa and John Williams” on July 17; and “Summer Retrospective” on July 24.

The Concord Band performs Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Ken Troup has been with the Band as a percussionist since 1971. He loves playing at Fruitlands. “It’s really fun to have a large crowd on the hillside,” he says. “And they get to watch the sunset!”

Jim O’Dell has served as the Band’s musical director since 2009. O’Dell, the third director in the Band’s 65-year history, was hired because his “style and personality were a great fit,” says Troup, a former president and now treasurer of the Band’s board. 

O’Dell, who can play the tuba, euphonium, and bass trombone, has significant concert experience, having directed the Middlesex Concert Band, Southeastern Concert Band, and Metropolitan Wind Symphony (now MetWinds). He was drawn to the Concord organization due to “its history and significance,” he says.

“I love working with an ensemble that embraces the standard concert band literature while being open to new contemporary work and challenging repertoire,” says O’Dell. 

“Our motto has been to be a community band with a professional attitude, and this rings true at every rehearsal, concert, and performance,” O’Dell says. “The dedication, commitment, and love of music making at a high level is obvious among all of our members.” 

The Concord Band in rehearsal. Photo by Laurie O’Neill

Collaboration in concert

Founded in 1959 as a marching unit for the Patriots Day parade, the Band has been exclusively a concert organization since 1970, performing about ten to 11 times a year. It’s come a long way since its founding, its members say. 

The Band has engaged many noted guest conductors and collaborated with organizations such as the Commonwealth Ballet Company, some of whose dancers performed at the Band’s Holiday Pops in December. 

A member for 12 years, David Gaylin of Concord is a management consultant who has been playing the clarinet since he was a fourth grader in New Jersey.

“It’s a great institution,” he says of the Band. 

Concord musician Carol Messina, a former Lexington Schools music teacher who majored in piano in college but turned to the trumpet, has been part of the brass section since 2006. “I love how much we’ve progressed and improved,” she says. 

“The Band demonstrates high quality, but it’s fun, too,” she declares. 

Several years ago, the John Philip Sousa Foundation presented the Concord Band with a coveted Sudler Silver Scroll, a prestigious award that recognizes community concert bands of outstanding musical excellence.  

Banding together

Band members come from various backgrounds, from music education to law to tech and engineering, and range widely in age. There are alums of prestigious colleges and instrumentalists who have played in military or professional bands. 

Laura Finkelstein playing the piccolo. Photo by Laurie O’Neill

Many, too, have made personal connections over the years. Finkelstein says she is happiest when playing with like-minded musicians.

“I have made so many friends here,” she declares.

The Band will perform a free concert with Lexington’s Bicentennial Band, directed by Jeff Leonard, former music director at Concord-Carlisle High School, and Al Dentino, on Saturday, July 13, at 11 a.m. on the Lexington Battle Green. 

The Concord Band’s summer series is at Fruitlands, 102 Prospect Hill Road in Harvard. Gates open at 5 p.m. for a 7:15 p.m. concert start. Tickets for members of the Trustees of Reservations are $15 per car; non-members are $20 per car. Attendees are encouraged to bring chairs or blankets and a picnic basket. 

Though the terrain is a bit bumpy, the area is wheelchair accessible. A few chairs and tables on the patio or under the tent are reserved for those with mobility issues. If it rains, the concerts are canceled.

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