Submitted by Lisa Cepeda – Tacoma Concert Band
Tacoma Concert Band approaches the start of the 2017-2018 season with the knowledge that this is the 38th and final season of founder and music director Robert Musser. Although the season is meant to be celebratory in nature, it is a bittersweet time for the group as they are aware they are saying goodbye to someone who had the vision and foresight to recognize the need for a professional level concert band in the Puget Sound area.
Bob’s early vision for TCB in 1981 was for musicians of the highest quality performing the best of concert band literature on a volunteer basis. Early on, Bob realized that audiences wanted to hear more of a varied program and he soon began incorporating lighter fare such as marches, Broadway musicals, and movie melodies into the programs. Five years after its inception, Bob’s vision was fully realized when TCB transitioned from performing free concerts at Stadium High School to performing paid concerts at the Pantages Theater which offered both the volunteers of the band, and the audience the experience of performing and listening in a professional venue. Today, the band continues to perform in the Pantages and programs include soloists of national and international reputation as well as commissioned works. Thanks to the generous donation of an anonymous donor, the band was also able to purchase all of its own percussion equipment, which freed them from having restrictions placed on them by having to borrow from other groups.
Over the years, the band flourished under Bob’s exacting standards and leadership and developed a reputation as one of the Northwest’s finest concert bands, not just locally, but on a national level. In 1989, they were recognized nationally when they were awarded the Sudler Silver Scroll by the John Philip Sousa Foundation, which is considered to be North America’s most prestigious concert band award. The band also developed this same reputation on an international basis due to tours on the French Riviera, Eastern Europe, and in Spain. This included being the only band invited from North America to compete in the international wind band contest in Valencia, Spain. During those tours, the band’s performances resulted in constant standing ovations, which helped reflect highly on not just the band, but Tacoma, Washington! Next summer, the band will be traveling one more time with Bob to tour Scotland and Ireland as well as compete in another international wind band contest.
Today TCB continues to uphold its reputation as one of the country’s finest concerts bands. It is now composed of musicians who have performed since it was founded in 1981, and musicians who have performed anywhere from one year to over 20 years. The group does not consider themselves just a group of musicians, they consider themselves a family as they have and continue to celebrate friendships, marriages, births of each other’s children, as well as mourn musicians who have left them. Throughout the years, many musicians have chosen to stay with the group, or return time and again to perform despite time constraints or offers to play paid gigs. This loyalty has developed not just due to the quality of the band, but for many other reasons. Lead trombonist William “Bill” Dyer, has been in the group for 25 years and despite living in Aberdeen, chooses to drive the long distance back and forth due to his respect for Bob, who he considers a mentor, and the life-long friendships he has made. Euphonium player Jason Gilliam, who initially played regularly with the TCB since he was in high school over 20 years ago is no longer a regular member. Over the years, he has returned primarily to perform as a soloist despite the demands on his time with many other ensembles. Jason too, cites his reasons as his respect for Bob, as well as the friendships made over the years. Bassoonist Dennis Dearth is an original band member from 1981 and has continued to perform with the group due to the inspiration he has continued to experience under Bob’s conducting, which he describes as demanding, but approachable. Dennis has also based his own teaching style on what he has learned from Bob, which includes what he describes as Bob’s ability to draw out the emotion in music. Lead trumpet player Morris Northcutt, another musician who is constantly in demand to play with other paid ensembles, has chosen to stay with the band since playing in high school due to his respect for Bob, Bob’s expectation of excellence, and the feeling of being part of something bigger with TCB.
As the band looks forward to an exciting future with the new conductor Gerard Morris, the band will certainly miss Bob, and forever be grateful for the opportunity that he afforded them not just as musicians, but for the relationships and memories that developed as part of this organization.
For his final season, Bob has chosen to program crowd-pleasing concerts that will include the always popular Sousa-themed concert “Stars Strips & Sousa” on Saturday October 14th 7:30 p.m. On Sunday December 10th, the band will perform the only matinee of the season when it performs “Celebrate Holiday Traditions” at 2:30 p.m. On February 24th at 7:30 p.m. the band will perform “Winter Celebration Featuring Rhapsody in Blue” with local pianist Duane Hulbert, and finally, on Saturday April 28th at 7:30 p.m. the band will perform “Celebration! A Special Concert Honoring the Retirement of Robert Musser.” Tickets can be purchased at the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, (253) 591-5894. Follow Tacoma Concert band on Facebook, Twitter, @TacomaBand, and their website Tacomaconcertband.org.