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Volume 24, Number 4 — April 2017

Community band thrives in Johnson City

The band is there to have a good time and play to the best of their ability. (photo by Kristina Gatz)
The band is there to have a good time and play to the best of their ability. (photo by Kristina Gatz)
Additional photos below »

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | June 29, 2016

From an 85-year-old tenor saxophone player to high school freshmen, the Johnson City Community Band is made up of people who just love to play music.

The band was founded in September 1983 by members of the faculty of East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee.

Its purpose was to provide an opportunity for musicians to play on a voluntary basis, especially those who might have stopped playing after high school or college and did not have ready access to other playing opportunities.

"It's a lot of fun to be with these people," Scott Champney, band president and drummer, says. "We're not there to be serious musicians but to have a good time and play to the very best of our abilities."

Dr. Christian Zembower, the director of bands at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee, is the leader of the group. "The main joys I have experienced in conducting and leading this group are that it is a volunteer group and thus, they don't have to come to rehearsal if they do not wish to, or even wish to play their instrument, but they take time out of the busy professional and personal lives, to do so. And they work very hard in rehearsal for me to play the music and their parts the way I want them to play it (with interpretation), and asking them to do this, and to have them do so, is a very huge compliment to me, that they respect who I am as a conductor and musician in telling them how I want them to play in a certain, specific way."

The band performs several times a year in Jonesborough, Tennessee. They play for Jonesborough's Memorial Day and Labor Day celebrations and at Music on the Square. They also perform at Rocky Mount, Science Hill High School, Northeast State, Founder's Park in downtown Johnson City and First Christian Church in Johnson City for their annual Christmas/holiday concert.

The band plays a range of pieces in various musical styles. Depending on the time of year and the venue, the program may include marches, overtures, medleys of patriotic music, pop music or Broadway musical soundtracks. Typically, the programming is lighter fare during the summer months when the concerts are outdoors and more serious pieces the rest of the year when the concerts are indoors.

An example is the repertoire for their concert at Northeast State, July 9. They'll perform "Esprit de Corps" by Robert Jager; "Hoagy Carmichael in Concert," arranged by Warren Barker;"Emperata Overture" by Claude T. Smith;"Commando March" by Samuel Barber;"Tennessee Salute" by Jay Dawson and "The Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Philip Sousa.

The band has grown to include 80 to 85 musicians and generally includes flutes, oboes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, horns, trombones, euphonium, tuba and percussion. Champney says that one of the band's challenges is they have so many people involved that they need a bigger practice venue. The group practices Monday at 7 p.m., in the band room at Indian Trail Intermediate School in Johnson City. The band is open to anyone who wishes to join. "Just show up. If you want to play, that's fine. If you discover that you aren't capable of playing the music, you can just leave," Champney says. "The conductor is very understanding that he has people of all different abilities who just enjoy playing."

"As conductor of this group, the challenges of leading this ensemble are generally about personnel consistency from concert to concert (and really, rehearsal to rehearsal)," Zembower says. "Because the ensemble is a volunteer group, when other priorities with their professional or personal lives come up, the personnel will change because persons can't then attend a rehearsal or be able to perform at a concert. And, because of their weekly schedule with work, family, etc., there are some people in the ensemble who do not have the time to be able to practice the music on their own, other than learning it during a rehearsal, which can cause minor problems with perfecting the music in a short period of time."

Zembower's duties at ETSU include conducting the Wind Ensemble, Concert Band and Chamber Winds, teaching beginning and advanced conducting, band literature, instrumental music education methods courses and leading all aspects concerning the ETSU bands program. With the implementation of football on campus, Zembower has developed and coordinated the plans and preparation of the redevelopment of the marching band at ETSU. He holds a Doctorate in music education from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. An avid performer on euphonium and trombone, Zembower is a member of the Keystone Winds, a professional wind ensemble comprised of music alumni and faculty from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Since its inception in 1992, this ensemble has recorded and produced over 15 compact discs of classic and contemporary band literature.

The group's upcoming concerts include a July 9, 7 p.m., concert at Northeast State, Blountville, Tennessee; Music on the Square, Jonesborough, Tennessee, Aug. 19 at 7:30 p.m.; Labor Day, Sept. 5, 6 p.m.; Founders Park, Johnson City, Sept. 18 at 4:30 p.m. Dates for their other concerts will be posted on the band's website, www.jcccband.org.From an 85-year-old tenor saxophone player to high school freshmen, the Johnson City Community Band is made up of people who just love to play music.

The band was founded in September 1983 by members of the faculty of East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee.

Its purpose was to provide an opportunity for musicians to play on a voluntary basis, especially those who might have stopped playing after high school or college and did not have ready access to other playing opportunities.

"It's a lot of fun to be with these people," Scott Champney, band president and drummer, says. "We're not there to be serious musicians but to have a good time and play to the very best of our abilities."

Dr. Christian Zembower, the director of bands at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee, is the leader of the group. "The main joys I have experienced in conducting and leading this group are that it is a volunteer group and thus, they don't have to come to rehearsal if they do not wish to, or even wish to play their instrument, but they take time out of the busy professional and personal lives, to do so. And they work very hard in rehearsal for me to play the music and their parts the way I want them to play it (with interpretation), and asking them to do this, and to have them do so, is a very huge compliment to me, that they respect who I am as a conductor and musician in telling them how I want them to play in a certain, specific way."

The band performs several times a year in Jonesborough, Tennessee. They play for Jonesborough's Memorial Day and Labor Day celebrations and at Music on the Square. They also perform at Rocky Mount, Science Hill High School, Northeast State, Founder's Park in downtown Johnson City and First Christian Church in Johnson City for their annual Christmas/holiday concert.

The band plays a range of pieces in various musical styles. Depending on the time of year and the venue, the program may include marches, overtures, medleys of patriotic music, pop music or Broadway musical soundtracks. Typically, the programming is lighter fare during the summer months when the concerts are outdoors and more serious pieces the rest of the year when the concerts are indoors.

An example is the repertoire for their concert at Northeast State, July 9. They'll perform "Esprit de Corps" by Robert Jager; "Hoagy Carmichael in Concert," arranged by Warren Barker;"Emperata Overture" by Claude T. Smith;"Commando March" by Samuel Barber;"Tennessee Salute" by Jay Dawson and "The Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Philip Sousa.

The band has grown to include 80 to 85 musicians and generally includes flutes, oboes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, horns, trombones, euphonium, tuba and percussion. Champney says that one of the band's challenges is they have so many people involved that they need a bigger practice venue. The group practices Monday at 7 p.m., in the band room at Indian Trail Intermediate School in Johnson City. The band is open to anyone who wishes to join. "Just show up. If you want to play, that's fine. If you discover that you aren't capable of playing the music, you can just leave," Champney says. "The conductor is very understanding that he has people of all different abilities who just enjoy playing."

"As conductor of this group, the challenges of leading this ensemble are generally about personnel consistency from concert to concert (and really, rehearsal to rehearsal)," Zembower says. "Because the ensemble is a volunteer group, when other priorities with their professional or personal lives come up, the personnel will change because persons can't then attend a rehearsal or be able to perform at a concert. And, because of their weekly schedule with work, family, etc., there are some people in the ensemble who do not have the time to be able to practice the music on their own, other than learning it during a rehearsal, which can cause minor problems with perfecting the music in a short period of time."

Zembower's duties at ETSU include conducting the Wind Ensemble, Concert Band and Chamber Winds, teaching beginning and advanced conducting, band literature, instrumental music education methods courses and leading all aspects concerning the ETSU bands program. With the implementation of football on campus, Zembower has developed and coordinated the plans and preparation of the redevelopment of the marching band at ETSU. He holds a Doctorate in music education from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. An avid performer on euphonium and trombone, Zembower is a member of the Keystone Winds, a professional wind ensemble comprised of music alumni and faculty from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Since its inception in 1992, this ensemble has recorded and produced over 15 compact discs of classic and contemporary band literature.

The group's upcoming concerts include a July 9, 7 p.m., concert at Northeast State, Blountville, Tennessee; Music on the Square, Jonesborough, Tennessee, Aug. 19 at 7:30 p.m.; Labor Day, Sept. 5, 6 p.m.; Founders Park, Johnson City, Sept. 18 at 4:30 p.m. Dates for their other concerts will be posted on the band's website, www.jcccband.org.

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Heart of Appalachia celebrates the joy of music


Topics: Music



Johnson City Community Band performs. (photo by Kristina Gatz)


Dr. Christian Zembower directs the band. (photo by Kristina Gatz)