R.G. Wolf was the founder of the band — yes, the same R.G. Wolf who has made headlines as a Senior Olympics champion. But he said he couldn’t have done it without the assistance of his wife, Jan. His “co-founder,” Wolf said, did the secretarial work — until last year when Linda Strickland came on board — along with answering the phone, disbursing information and putting together the programs.
The mission of the band is to provide the community with live community concert band entertainment while engaging adult musicians in lifelong musical fun, fellowship and learning. In fact, the rehearsals are touted as a “90-minute fun time of learning and musical fellowship.”
Wolf set a goal to reach 80 in band membership, and “we are almost halfway there,” he commented.
The challenge is still two-fold: Retain those who come back at least once from their first attendance and keep them coming; and establish an aggressive ongoing recruiting campaign, which will ensure attendance stability and growth.
Outstanding achievement was noted as the band passed through three phases of development, growth and skill since its inception. The first phase was recruiting players who would commit to the Monday night rehearsals — regardless of playing ability level or how long since played. During this time, according to Wolf, as many as eight conductors shared the podium. Separate weekly rehearsals were held for beginner players and others who had not played for many years. This was the “Warm-up Band.”
The first public concert of the band was held Nov. 13, 2006 — the second phase. The concert drew a good audience in the Cleveland High School Commons, and was also a food drive for a local charity. Michael Itson was named the lead conductor.
The next performance — the third phase — was taken outside for the “Evening Shade” series in Johnston Park, followed by a concert in the Lee University Conn Center. At Christmas, the band “played on” with “Carols in the City” on the courthouse steps — a chilly affair, said Wolf.
In the third phase, a band board was elected and the official name was selected: Greater Cleveland Concert Band. The band was designated also as the official band of the city of Cleveland. Nonprofit status was established, which permitted tax deductible contributions to be received.
In two years, the community band had proved to be a viable performing arts organization for the Cleveland and Bradley County area, as well as Meigs, Rhea and Polk counties.
“Broadway & More” was presented to the community on Feb. 26, 2007, with Itson as concert director. It began with “The Star Spangled Banner” and ended with the classic grand finale, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” On program was Lisa McGarvey, accordionist, who played a solo and joined Tom Wheeler Sr. in a duet. More than 60 members were listed in the program. Conductors were Ron Corchnoy, Ricky Donegan, Sandy Donegan, Itson, George Olin and Wolf.
The Nov. 13, 2007, concert began with a welcome from Dr. Stephen Plate, dean of the School of Music at Lee University. The concert included “Duty, Honor, Country,” narrated by Dr. Jim Burns.
On the night before Halloween, the 10th public concert — “Come hear the beat ... Trick or Treat” — was given by the 30-month-old Greater Cleveland Concert Band. Six concerts have been by the full band and three were performed by the Big Band Jazz Ensemble.
Wolf wrote in the program, “We are still a very young band, so we combine our selections with story line dramatizations to enhance audience entertainment. Calling the new concert, a “conceretta,” he said this concept is giving you a smorgasbord of Halloween music, classical favorites, operatic voices, a locally composed march, audience anticipation, stand-up poetic singers, trick or treat spooks and patriotic finale.
He noted the band is committed also to serving the community in other ways. Food drives for needy families served by The Caring Place have been conducted at concerts. And many of the band members have entertained in churches, schools, senior facilities and community clubs. That year, a band project was purchasing music stands for band students at Blythe Bower Elementary School.
The passing of a charter band member and perfumer, Thomas William Wheeler Sr., was remembered during the Halloween concert. He played the trumpet and flugelhorn and his talent was much appreciated.
Wheeler’s love of music started in high school and he played in may bands and theater productions, as well as in church worship. He was also with the Roaring 50s group. Wolf said there was never a band rehearsal at which Wheeler didn’t ask about someone who was absent.
Other concerts through the years included a Premiere Concert, “Please Pass the Memories,” on Nov. 13, 2006; a “tax relief” second anniversary concert, “No IRS Pressure Tonight,” on April 15, 2008; “Hear Us Laud, Music Abroad,” featuring music of the world and Big Band Jazz on March 2, 2009; another Halloween concert, “Yo-ho-ho! Pirates ’n Ghost Fleets!” on Oct. 22, 2009; “Broadway, Just Off Broad Street,” conducted by Don Bindrim Jr. on May 4, 2010, at Lee University; and for the holidays, the band presented “Spend the Holidays with Us” on Nov. 23, 2010.
The most recent concert, “Touched by Disney Magic,” was held at First Baptist Church on May 17 and celebrated five years of the band’s existence. The concert was dedicated to the volunteers who reached out to victims of the tornadoes which went through the area. Proceeds from the concert donations went to the local Salvation Army to meet community emergency needs. The concert brought in $2,300 for tornado relief.
Featured in the concert were student musicians from Bradley Central High School, Cleveland High School, Cleveland Sate Community College, Lee University and Walker Valley High School.
More than 300 adults and students have performed at band rehearsals and in concerts at one time or another since the band was organized, according to Wolf. New members are invited to join the music and fellowship. All skill levels are welcome and no auditions are required.
The current elected officers are: Don Bindrim, president; Lamar Strickland, vice president; John Austin, treasurer; Chris Cook, secretary; Isabel McFadden, librarian; Dan Knappen; Noel Kuten; Nancy Casson, publicity; and Ron Corchnoy. The Rev. Lu Crandall serves as chaplain and Charlie McDowell is fundraising chairman. Knappen and Damian Szidiropuloz do the website technology; and R.G. Wolf is writer and photographer.
A newsletter is published for each weekly rehearsal, which includes the music, schedule of rehearsals and concerts, a message from the chaplain with Scripture, newsy items about members and announcements about other musical events.
For membership and schedule information, or to join the band, call Wolf at 614-0060.