WHAT MAKES A band a community band? For many, it’s playing music with friends. For others, it’s practicing an instrument they might not have picked up since high school.
For me, one of the best things about Around the Sound Community Band is this: no audition required.
Given that the barriers to joining the band are close to zero, I was surprised by how good it sounded when I visited a weekly rehearsal in the recital hall at the Music Center of the Northwest in Greenwood. These 70 or so musicians aren’t professionals, but their dedication is apparent all the same.
Their ages range from college students to 90-year-olds, which gives me the distinct feeling that music must help preserve youth.
Linda Borchardt might hold the record for the most time between band stints. She was in a high school band in 1957 and didn’t play her clarinet again until she joined the Around the Sound band in 2011. “I practiced at home, and it comes back,” she says as she settles in to warm up. Now, “It’s like having grandkids. It’s just a lot of good, kind people.”
On the other end of the age spectrum are two young flutists. One is Megan Johnson, now a college student, who saw the band perform when she was a kid and immediately wanted to be a part of it. “I tried it out, loved it and kept on coming,” she says. Other band members fondly recall Johnson’s dad bringing her to practice until she was old enough to drive.
Brett Bobolts moved to Seattle last year and, when he learned of the band, “just showed up.” Experienced from playing during college, he was a featured performer in its last concert. “They all think I’m pretty good, so that’s nice,” he says with a laugh.
Bandmates are happy if you’re good, but they emphasize that you don’t need to be. “It’s OK to make mistakes, and we do,” says current band president Patricia Terhune-Inverso.
The band performs three formal concerts, plus summer concerts at venues, well, around the Sound. Its next concert will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 6, at the Ballard Locks.
A number of community bands and orchestras rehearse at the nonprofit Music Center, which also hosts group and individual music classes for students of all ages. “This is music of, by and for the community,” says Charlotte Green, a Music Center board member.
Green, who plays in the Rain City Symphony community orchestra, says she’s seen people join music groups during difficult times in their lives, finding a bolstering combination of new friends and a beloved activity.
The Around the Sound band began in 1999, when Kirstin Klepp, a high-school student and aspiring music teacher at Shorecrest High School, started a beginner adult band for her senior project. Among those she recruited was a science teacher at the school, Vince Santro Pietro. “I played no instrument, and I didn’t read music, but I said, ‘I want to do that!’ ” recalls Santro Pietro, who now plays the clarinet. When the project was over, the band kept playing together, adding members over the years.
“It’s interesting how the personalities meld. It’s kind of like a family,” says band member Leah Setala. “There have been some arguments and fights, but overall, everyone loves being here.”