band

Karen Pike plays trombone while Esteban Leon plays trumpet at Wayne Community College during the first rehearsal of the Bison Community Concert Band on Aug. 18.

Students at Wayne Community College and area residents now have a place to play music together as part of the newly formed Bison Community Concert Band.

“This will be the first semester that we’ve had this band,” said Randi Chalfant, WCC music instructor. “It all started because somebody in the community reached out to me last fall and wondered if we had a community band.

“This person had moved from Florida, and there was a very strong community band where she had lived and she’d been playing with it for years.”

Chalfant had already been thinking about ways to connect the community with the college music program. Starting a community band seemed like the perfect fit.

Students attending WCC can be part of the Bison Band, as well as area residents who have played an instrument before. Band members can be people who graduated from high school, played with a band and have nowhere else to play an instrument. Residents interested in being a part of the band can take the class through the WCC continuing education department.

The class costs $35 each semester. Students become a part of the band by taking the community band course at WCC.

Directing the Bison Band is William Ford, band director at the University of Mount Olive.

“He was very excited to try to start a community band,” Chalfant said.

The Bison Band will play a lot of jazz music and other music genres. For its winter concert, the band will play a variety of music from different eras, as well as fun pieces and contemporary pop-type pieces.

The band held its first rehearsal on Aug. 18 and meets each Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 8 at WCC. Band members also practice music on their own to prepare for concerts.

“In class, it’s partly teaching them how to play the music, but it’s also teaching them how to perform as an ensemble because that’s a skill in itself,” Chalfant said. “These students can go home and practice all they want, but unless they are used to playing with everybody else, that makes it difficult.

“So that’s why they have rehearsals, to make sure they’re practicing the music correctly and are working together as an ensemble.”

The band is currently composed of 12 musicians from the local community. Chalfant hopes WCC students will also enroll.

“We have some members that are previous band instructors and some that have previous experience from years ago, and they just wanted to come back to start playing again,” she said. “It’s a variety of different skill levels. I think that’s an exciting opportunity. You’ve got people with a lot of experience that will be teaching others.”

The Bison Band is for anyone age 16 and older with previous band experience.

“The ultimate goal is just to provide an opportunity for the school and the community to have music experiences, to be able to perform, to be able to listen an participate however they want to in music,” Chalfant said. “My goal as a music educator is to create spaces for people to enjoy music.”

Chalfant said the band is a good opportunity to bring in some talented band musicians from the area to play with students, who are still developing their skills.

“We’re hoping that, at some point, they’re going to be playing additional concerts besides the concert at the very end of the semester,” she said. “They’ll at least do a winter concert and a spring concert. Hopefully they will eventually be able to get out into the community and do concerts out there as well.”

Chalfant hopes that members of the Bison Band have a great time making music.

“Having been in the pandemic where we could not be around each other and making music collaboratively, that was really difficult,” she said. “And music has such a healing power when you can do it with others. One of my hopes is that they’ll make relationships with each other and will be supportive of each other and also find an outlet for themselves, a creative outlet.”

Bison Band concerts will be open to the public. The free winter concert will be 7 p.m. Dec. 8 in WCC’s Moffatt Auditorium.

Anyone in the community wanting the band to perform at an event can call the music department and request a concert.

“Music engages both sides of the brain,” Chalfant said. “It helps with critical thinking and language. I think more than anything, it’s just is a language that you can’t speak. It is a way to get out emotions and make connections with people. It’s special, something that you just can’t quite explain. It is incredibly important. It does involve you in a way that math, science and reading can’t do.”

Anyone interested in joining the band can go to waynecc.edu/bison-community-concert-band and sign up.

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