MCB To Host 25-year Anniversary Concert

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bBy Jack Hoban

The Milford Community Band (MCB), Delaware’s musical treasure, will perform a celebratory concert at 3 PM on Sunday, June 14.  The concert will be held at the Milford High School Auditorium to mark the 25-year anniversary of the Band. The 65-member MCB, with its repertoire of spirited marches, Broadway hits, old favorites, patriotic songs, seasonal pieces and sing-alongs, has been a staple for Delaware’s music lovers for 25 years. The concert will also honor the founder of the band, Mr. N. Joe Lear, Sr. The MCB enjoys a large, loyal and enthusiastic following around Central and Southern Delaware.

Band members come from all walks of life – career musicians, amateurs, students and folks renewing skills from years past – who come from as far north as Smyrna, and as far south as Salisbury to make music together. While helping with the Milford High School Band in 1990, Mr. Lear complained to then band director, Dr. Gerald Thompson, that he did not have any place to play his trombone. Dr. Thompson challenged him to start his own band. So he did. Mr. Lear put an ad in a local newspaper and when twelve people responded, the Milford Community Band was born. Three of those twelve, Tony Perrone, Margie (Jones) Newnom, and Bill Mayhew, are still performing along with Mr. Lear.

The MCB’s first gig was April 1990 at the Wesley Jazz Festival. “I never imagined that we would be here when we started,” said Lear, 88, on the band’s longevity. “It’s a credit to all the wonderful and dedicated people who have played with us over the years. I love to play because of the fellowship,” Lear added. “There are very few bad people in community bands. The whole focus of community bands is to make music together. And to all the great people who have supported us. I hope to see them all at the concert”

Phil Steinhoff conducts the MCB. He is the music education teacher at Saint Thomas Moore Academy in Magnolia, Delaware, and has taught music to students for over 40 years. In the mid 90’s Steinhoff played clarinet in the MCB. When the director of the MCB left due to health issues, Mr. Lear asked him to direct the band on a 6-month trial basis. That was in 1998. He’s been directing ever since.

“Firstly, these are 99% amateurs who play because they love to”, said Steinhoff.  “We have a few professionals but we are mostly amateurs. The root word for  “amateur” is amore´ or love. And that’s why they play–because they love to.  Secondly, it’s a ton of fun, especially the rehearsals.  I’m very proud of them and it makes my week working with them. We make mistakes but we learn from them and move on. The band has come a long way in its musical skills.”

James Swearingen, a renowned composer and conductor amongst music educators and band directors, has been commissioned to write a piece of music specifically for the event. The MCB, and its ensembles: The Smooth Sound Dance Band; The Downtown Dixieland Band; The Happy Wanderers Oompah Band; The Mid-Del Saxophone Quartet; The Christmas Carol Band and the Kettle Jammers Band, have performed thousands of concerts throughout the state at festivals, parades, veterans events, holiday celebrations, hospitals and senior centers. Most of these concerts have been performed free of charge.

Admission to the concert is free but donations will be accepted at the door, or sent to band manager Dr. Gerald Thompson, 804 Hickory Lane, Milford, Delaware, 19963. For more information,individuals are encouraged to contact Jack Hoban at 302-229-9083 or hoban.jack@gmail.com.