Some 20 years ago, Larry Sage, an Independence musician, pondered organizing a community band in Harry Truman's hometown. So with the support of two other Independence musicians – Bill McBride, who is now deceased, and Paul Bright, who resides in Orlando, Florida, the trio gave birth to The Spirit of Independence Concert Band.
“The three of us played in a group over North called the North Star Band,” Larry says, recalling they traveled “quite a distance” each week to play in the band “So we thought the (Independence) area needed (a community band) … and from there the three of us took (the idea) and formed this band.” With Sage conducting the fledgling band, 17 musicians attended the first rehearsal at Bridger Junior High on Sept. 22, 1997, and began preparing for its first-ever concert – “The Sound of Christmas” – presented Dec. 5, 1997, at the First United Methodist Church, with 24 musicians present.
Band records reveal the second concert was in March 1998, followed by six summer performances, “thus setting the pattern for coming seasons: typically, three to four indoor concerts during the fall, winter and spring, and five or six outdoor concerts during the summer.”
Once an unknown commodity, but now an intrical part of the community, the spotlight will be focused on The Spirit of Independence Concert Band at its Spring 20th Anniversary Concert at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Truman Memorial Building, 416 W. Maple Ave., under music director Jane Hicklin and assistant music director Jarred Warren.
Free and open to the public, the concert features “music for everyone,” says Hicklin, who became the band's fifth director in January 2015, succeeding Danny Lane, who conducted the band from 2002 to 2014.
“I joined the band in 2014 … and when Danny Lane retired I was approached to conduct the band and I thought it would be fun,” says Hicklin, who taught public school band for 29 years.
Adding to the enjoyment of the anniversary concert is a commissioned piece –“Mary and Martha” – written by band member Don Matthews, who currently isn't with the band because of health issues. The music was commissioned by The Spirit of Independence Concert Band for the 20th Anniversary Concert.
To honor the band's guest conductors, Hicklin asked them to select “something” to direct. Larry Sage selected “Semper Fidelis March.” Jarred Warren chose “Havendance.” Brent Edmunds, former interim director and assistant director, picked John Philip Sousa's “The Pathfinder of Panama” and Danny Lane opted for “A Touch of Jazz,” which includes “It Don't Mean a Thing.”
Closing out the hour-long program is “Einzugsmarsch,” which Hicklin says is new to the band.
“That is one of my favorites,” she says of the piece that comes from the opera, “The Gypsy Baron,” written by Johann Strauss II. “I found it online. It was very difficult to find for the band, because it was an orchestral piece, and it took me three months to come up with the band version.”
The band means a lot of different things to its faithful members, but to Hicklin, it means “Good friends and making good music,” she says, adding: “I love working with people. I love conducting the band. I absolutely love it and I love making music with these folks. It's fun. They are (in the band) for the love of making music, which makes my job a whole lot easier.
To Virginia Anthony, who plays the euphonium and serves as band secretary, the band is like family. And why not? She became a member immediately after the first concert.
“One thing that is kinda nice for me is that I have two daughters, and they are both members. One plays the bassoon and the other one plays the trumpet. It's good to see family. There are several sets of people in the band who are family members,” she says, adding, “It's just an extension.”
With a band that started 20 years ago with about two dozen committed members, its membership has more than tripled.
“It varies week to week from 60 to 65,” Heflin says, adding: “I would like to have some more percussion. And other than that, we are in pretty good shape. … “We don't want to get too big, ” she continues. “You can get out of control. You want a good number in each section, and we are pretty close to that now.”
As for the band's legacy, “It's playing good, solid music,” Hicklin says, explaining the band plays a lot of patriotic music for many community events. “We especially honor our veterans. In most of our summer and fall concerts, we do something to honor our veterans.”
Says Hicklin: “We play a march entitled 'The Spirit of Independence,' which is not named after our band. But it is pretty representative of our band. We have kind of made it our signature march in most of our concerts.”
How good is The Spirit of Independence Concert Band? Good enough to play on June 18 at the Missouri Bandmasters Convention at Tan-Tar-A at the Lake of the Ozarks.
“This performance is quite an honor and a way to showcase our band, the City of Independence and Blue River Community College, as we are the only community band invited to this prestigious event,” Hicklin says. “...Hopefully, it will be a lot of fun.”
Upcoming band performances:
• Truman Presidential Library – 9:30 a.m., May 8.
• Memorial Day observance at Swan Lake Memorial Gardens – 11:15 a.m., May 29.
• Strawberry Festival at Vaile Mansion – noon, June 3.
• Independence Day celebration at Mormon Visitor's Center, 8:15 p.m., July 3.
• Antique/Craft Festival at Bingham-Waggoner Estate, noon, July 8.
For more information about The Spirit of Independence Concert Band, contact Jane Hicklin through the band's Facebook page or through Blue River Community College.
-- Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.