Hagerstown Municipal Band wraps up summer season
As the Hagerstown Municipal Band wraps up another summer concert season, its final two concerts will feature a local tuba player of note as well as the organization’s popular Big Band.
The Hagerstown Municipal Band has been entertaining audiences for 104 years. Its 2019 free summer concert series began on June 9 and has been offered weekly on Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m. in the center of the beautiful Hagerstown City Park at the Peter Buys Band Shell since.
Hagerstown Municipal Band President Christopher R. Stockslager said the concept of the Hagerstown Municipal Band is one that was created by the City of Hagerstown and Chamber of Commerce in 1915.
“At that time, the thought was that the City of Hagerstown would provide a professional concert band for its citizens and they would not have to pay to see the performances. Therefore, all funding would be provided by the City. That still exists today,” Stockslager said.
The first of the band’s two final concerts will be held Sunday, Aug. 18, at 7:30 p.m. and will feature tuba soloist Zachary Grass.
Stockslager said Grass is no stranger to the band and described him as a top-notch player.
“I was a member of the band for about four years between 2010 and 2014 before I had to leave for North Carolina to pursue my master’s degree. I always wanted to come back and perform during the summer but my summers became filled with performing abroad with summer festivals and work with orchestras in New England,” Grass explained.
A Waynesboro, Pa. native, Grass is a freelance tubist and low-brass educator in the Boston area. As a performer, Zack has worked with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Symphony New Hampshire, the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra in New Hampshire, the Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra and the New England Brass Quintet. He also played with traditional jazz and pop groups including the Dapper Brass, the Boston Video Game Orchestra and the Hot Tamale Brass Band in Cambridge, Mass.
In addition to his performing career, Grass is also finishing his doctorate in tuba performance at Boston University. His dissertation proposal, “Technology in the Private Lesson Studio; Current Music Technology that can Enhance Pedagogical Techniques for the Tuba,” which discusses alternative teaching techniques combining guitar effects pedal with the tuba, has also received recognition. At Boston University, Grass is studying under the tutelage of Boston Symphony Orchestra principal tubist, Mike Roylance.
Grass said he is very much looking forward to being back home performing with the band.
“Although I have enjoyed my travels so far in life I think it is very important to me that I stay connected with what got me where I am today. It has taken me a long time to finally feel this way but I really enjoy coming back home, performing with friends, and seeing how much the area has progressed,” Grass said.
Grass will be performing two pieces. The first, “Hijinx,” was composed by his friend and former roommate, Anthony O’Toole.
“It was originally commissioned by the Coast Guard band to feature their solo tubist,” Grass said.
The second piece he will perform is an arrangement he did of Astor Piazzolla’s “Oblivion.”
“Although it was originally written for accordion, the melody lies beautifully on many instruments and I thought it was time to give the tuba a shot at it,” Grass said.
The ‘Big Band’ experience
For the ninth year, the Hagerstown Municipal Band has extended its summer concert series to give audiences an opportunity to have a “Big Band” experience. The final concert will be held Aug. 25 at 7 p.m.
Joel Guyton, who has been a trumpet player in the HMB for more than 20 years and has served as the band’s vice president for the past five years, has been the conductor of the Big Band since its inception in 2010. He said the Hagerstown Municipal Band is a 50-55 piece group of woodwinds, brass and percussion which is different from the Big Band that is comprised of a 17-20 piece group specifically made up of saxophones, trumpets, trombones and a rhythm section.
The Big Band typically plays standards from the Big Band era along with arrangements from modern musical styles. For this concert Guyton said the band will be performing some Big Band standards, two solo features and a few modern selections. Some of the songs on the program include popular toe-tapping favorites like “Little Brown Jug” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”
“The Big Band presents a different style of music than what the HMB typically performs. People who enjoy swing music can come hear tunes from that era on the final concert of the summer season,” Guyton said.
Stockslager said if it is raining, a decision to cancel the concert would be made at 7:25 p.m. He also recommends audience members bring their own seating if they can.
“The City has provided wonderful permanent seating, however, that seating fills up fast. Quite a few people arrive an hour before the performance,” Stockslager said.
Top photo: Hagerstown Municipal Band Conductor Lynn Lerew shown with the band. (Submitted photo)