|Tooting their own horns
Not quite ‘76 Trombones,’ but 80 musicians help celebrate RP Community Band’s 30th anniversary
“It was like a family reunion,” said Gary Young, leader and musical director of the Rohnert Park Community Band. This was the 30th anniversary of the RP’s band beginnings, an extravagant collection of musical talents from all over Sonoma County performing in a free concert under a warm sun in Alicia Park. Maybe it wasn’t “76 Trombones,” but who was counting? The public was enchanted.
“We invited bands to join us and we had about 80 musicians and seven community bands from Petaluma, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Old Adobe School, Santa Rosa Junior College, New Horizons... I can’t remember them all,” said Young.
“You know, Rohnert Park was the first community band in the county and we’re still playing every year,” Young remembers. “Petaluma had town bands dating back to the late 1890’s, but they’ve had gaps when there wasn’t any band at all in town.”
A mini-reunion of sorts was held Monday afternoon in Cotati’s Redwood Café to talk about Saturday’s free concert. Original band members from 1979 included Gary Mathews (trumpet), Debbie Bailey (clarinet), Bob Moon (tuba) and Bonnie Moon (flute).
“When we first started we had only four people meeting in my house,” said Mathews. “The second meeting we had six and I began wondering if this band of amateur musicians was going to survive. It was touch and go for a few months. We all had day jobs, of course.” Mathews was a chiropractor back then.
It survived and slowly expanded year by year. Some left town but new talents signed up to fill the gaps as word of the band’s existence grew. It now has about 50 members.
Gary Young, 54, is practically a newcomer amid the four “old timers.” He didn’t join until 1990 as a woodwind player and later took on the band-leading chore. He’s from the SF Peninsula, went to Skyline Junior College, San Francisco State University, majoring in Industrial Arts. His “day job” is designing and building custom furniture. His wife, Jan, is director of the choral group based in Codding Recreation Center.
“One thing about playing an instrument, you never forget,” said Bailey.
“We rehearse every Monday night in Burton Avenue Recreation Center,” said Young. “We don’t hold auditions, it’s ‘Can you sight read music?’ and bring your instrument.”