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Finding community in the Lincoln Community Concert Band

Finding community in the Lincoln Community Concert Band


They are a second-half band.

That’s what Terry Princ says, putting down his tenor sax and stretching his legs.

Lincoln Community Concert Band Director Pat Fortney says it, too, putting down his baton after the last note of “Auld Lang Syne” ends the first hour of band practice Monday night.

“OK. Let’s come back and do it right.”

Fortney has spent the past hour dancing on the podium in Room 132 of the Westbrook Music Building and handing out brief – but pointed -- pointers to his volunteer musicians.

“Don’t. Rush. The. Beat.”

“It says marcato, that means sep-a-rate.”

“Don’t leave the last note.”



Fortney and his musicians will spend the next hour getting it right at the band’s final rehearsal before its annual holiday concert at Kimball Recital Hall on Monday.

They play four concerts a year at Kimball, all of them free, although not for the players who pay for the pleasure of being members of this group.

Fortney has heard people say the community band is the best-kept secret in Lincoln.

He’d have to agree.

Come Monday, he says. Concert starts at 7:30. There will be Christmas sweaters and antlers and Santa hats on the heads of trumpet players and saxophonists.

“Please, bring small children who cry,” says the father of four. “It’s family friendly.”

Jerry Reed feels the same way about the band.

“We’re sort of a family,” says the baritone saxophone player.

“It’s a gas.”

* * *

Jack Snider started the Lincoln Community Concert Band in 1981.

“There were just a lot of graduates who didn’t have any place to play anymore,” says the former director of bands at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “So we just decided to put together a band.”

Princ and his sax joined right away.

Ruth Diedrichsen came with her tuba.

Fran Kaye showed up with a trombone.

The UNL professor walks in Monday night, her instrument case held together with duct tape, wild hair held back with a clip.

She can’t quite remember how she heard about Snider’s band, says Kaye, who teaches Great Plains Studies. But she’d been in a polka band and it folded. “And I can’t live without playing a trombone in a band.”


It’s the playing -- “You take a pipe and you bend it and you blow in it and sounds come out.”

And it’s playing with a bunch of other people blowing into bent pipes, too:

“Really cool sounds come out that you can’t make by yourself.”

There’s a need among music people, said Fortney, who played tuba for Snider in the Cornhusker Marching Band and became director of this band at his request.

“I think it’s a really important outlet for folks who want a life in music after high school.”

Lots of young players don’t make it past junior high band, he said, and then there’s the steep drop-off after high school -- and the devoted few who major in music or play in college bands.

Ron and Kathy Hill are among the devoted.

They started playing in the community band 20 years ago, coming to Lincoln for Ron’s job in an anesthesiology practice.

A colleague invited Ron to show up with his clarinet.

He’d had been a doctor in the military, traveling the country, and the Army had a band, of course, but he didn’t play.

“I wasn’t that good. I still remain not that good.”

But playing here is a perfect fit, he says as the high-ceilinged room fills with sound. Toots and clanks and deep tuba calls.

And the bonus is his wife, Kathy, in back with the other percussionists, and son Jason at the drums.

“Makes it that much more delightful.”

* * *

By 7 p.m., nearly all the band members are in the room, coats shed, music stacked on their stands. There are young musicians wearing sweatshirts looking like they just came from finishing a final, and old musicians in sweater vests looking like they finally retired from grading them.

And some of them have.

There’s Bill Wayne, retired geology professor.

“Rock hound,” Reed says.

Edgar Pearlstein, retired physics professor.

“Writes letters to the editor,” Reed says.

John Varvel, the anesthesiologist who brought Ron Hill on board.

There are a half-dozen or more M.D.'s in the band, along with professors of all stripes – math, physics, education.

There are people who make a living in music, like Princ, who owns an instrument repair shop, or Carolyn Dow, a music librarian, or Mike Murphy, band director at Pius.

There are nurses, students, consultants, an archeologist, a pre-school teacher, an IT guy.

There is Paul Safarik, a HyVee sacker and euphonium player, whose mom Deb comes to help keep time.

Paul played in the band at East High for four years and now the young man with Down syndrome has found a place to continue playing.

“It’s really nice there’s a community band,” Deb says.

Joyce Royal has been in the band about a dozen years; her father, Duane Johnson, used to be its director.

“It’s an outlet for us,” says the French horn-playing underwriter. “Especially after a stressful Monday.”

“It’s like psychotherapy,” says Reed, a semiretired internal medicine doctor.

The band practices two hours a week and plays a public concert four times a year.

Tonight, they run through the holiday lineup: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Pat-a-Pan,” “Greensleeves,” “Carol of the Bells.”

“Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem”; “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”; “Fum, Fum, Fum.”

Feet tap time, lips move, fingers count. Faces turn red. Pencils come out, marking up music. A clarinet player adds to a to-do list tucked behind her sheet music.

The percussionists high-five.

Reed bounces his baritone sax across his knees like a baby during “Fum, Fum, Fum.”

Jason Hill beats the red drums during “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

Everyone not blowing a horn sings along to “Auld Lang Syne.”

At 7:56, the conductor puts down his baton.

They’ll get things perfected for show time during the second hour of practice, says Princ, the 31-year-veteran of the band.

“We usually make a comeback.”

Reach Cindy Lange-Kubick at 402-473-7218 or


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Cindy Lange-Kubick joined the Lincoln Journal Star in 1994 and has loved covering life in her hometown ever since. Will write for chocolate. Or coffee.

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