Strike Up the Band

Plea­sures of making mu­sic, lucky 13 for Sanibel con­cert group

Times of the Islands - - Departments - BY ERIK ENT WISTLE

Iwrapped up the last “Stay Tuned” col­umn with the state­ment that “as far as mu­sic is con­cerned, the word ‘re­tire­ment’ needs never ap­ply.” To­day I’d like to pro­vide a fit­ting il­lus­tra­tion of those words from our own back yard here in Southwest Florida. It be­gins in the mid­dle of Oc­to­ber, when more than 50 mu­si­cians hail­ing from 15 states, Canada, and Ger­many start to gather ev­ery week on Sanibel Is­land to re­hearse as part of the BIG ARTS Con­cert Band. Many are snow­birds; and while some re­side on the is­land, the ma­jor­ity drive down from Fort My­ers, Le­high Acres, Pine Is­land or Cape Co­ral for the priv­i­lege and plea­sure of making mu­sic with friends and col­leagues.

The band turns a lucky 13 this year, hav­ing been founded in 2003. Since that time its rep­u­ta­tion has steadily grown to the point that the band’s an­nual hol­i­day and spring con­certs have be­come fix­tures on Sanibel. Un­der the lead­er­ship of cur­rent mu­sic di­rec­tor Mike Lamade, now en­ter­ing his third sea­son as con­duc­tor, the BIG ARTS Con­cert Band has more than dou­bled in size. As Lamade notes, “We have a few pro­fes­sion­als, but most are ev­ery­day folks such as teach­ers, min­is­ters, brick­lay­ers, CEOs of big com­pa­nies, doc­tors, nurses. Some have played 60 years, some haven’t played since high school and are even tak­ing lessons as se­niors.” Per­haps most re­mark­able? The av­er­age age of play­ers in the band is around 76. Lamade, a pro­fes­sional per­cus­sion­ist and high school band di­rec­tor whose ca­reer led him to Ohio, New Jer­sey and Penn­syl­va­nia, now re­sides full time in Southw est

Florida. Lamade is clearly in his el­e­ment as he leads the band’s re­hearsals and per­for­mances, not only with dis­ci­pline, but also an in­fec­tious en­thu­si­asm. “I’m do­ing now what I did at age 21, sixty years ago―makin’ mu­sic and lov­ing it,” says Lamade.

As to his fel­low mu­si­cians whom he di­rects in the band, Lamade re­flects, “These folks need no in­spi­ra­tion from me to per­form their best. I do the best I can to mo­ti­vate them to play well. I try to make it fun ... if my 89-year-old trum­pet player is a lit­tle off-key, God bless him.”

For Lamade a par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable mo­ment oc­curred at the con­clu­sion of last spring’s Pops Con­cert at Schein Hall on Sanibel. “It wasn’t the sold-out house last spring, the ap­plause or the stand­ing ova­tion,” Lamade re­calls, “but the smiles on the faces of my mu­si­cians as the y stood and took their bows. They knew the hard work of prac­tic­ing their parts and work­ing to­gether as a team had paid off.”

I asked Lamade to comment on the dif­fer­ences be­tween con­duct­ing the BIG ARTS Con­cert Band and the nu­mer­ous high school bands he has led in the past, es­pe­cially given the 60-year gap in the av­er­age age of the play­ers. His an­swer is per­haps as sur­pris­ing as it is en­cour­ag­ing. “It’s the same,” he notes. “Mu­sic is the con­nect­ing fac­tor, re­gard­less of age, race, na­tion­al­ity or re­li­gion—mu­sic is the uni­ver­sal lan­guage.”

Pi­anist, in­struc­tor and mu­si­col­o­gist Erik En­twistle re­ceived an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in mu­sic from Dart­mouth Col­lege. He earned a post-grad­u­ate de­gree in pi­ano per­for­mance at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned his doc­tor­ate in mu­si­col­ogy at the University of Cal­i­for­nia, Santa Bar­bara. He teaches on Sanibel.

BIG ARTS CON­CERT BAND UP­COM­ING PER­FOR­MANCES Hol­i­day Con­cert: Dec. 17, 2016 Spring Con­cert: March 3, 2017 (Schein Per­for­mance Hall at BIG ARTS on Sanibel Is­land)

I’M DO­ING NOW WHAT I DID AT AGE 21, SIXTY YEARS AGO— MAKIN’ MU­SIC AND LOV­ING IT.” —MIKE LAMADE

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