Community band attracting musicians of all ages

By Douglas McCulloch | Jul 01, 2017
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch The Dartmouth Community Band performs a pre-Fourth of July concert on July 1.

This year, the Dartmouth Community Band is shaping up to be the largest and most diverse yet as weekly summer concerts are set to get underway.

That’s according to John Furtado, who has served as conductor and band director for the past two years. He anticipates taking in between 30 and 40 musicians, a record for the all-volunteer band. Dating back to 1971, it accepts people of all ages and abilities, but this year’s numbers are growing with interest from younger musicians – a valuable asset as the group relies on word-of-mouth to reach new members.

“This year is going to be our biggest,” Furtado said. “We had a lot of college-age folks show up this year.”

It’s one of the only community bands in the area, Furtado noted. While towns like Marion and Mattapoisett have their own town bands, Dartmouth's is one of the only ones he knows of on this part of the South Coast.

Jacob Benoit wears the title of the band’s youngest member. At just 11 years old, the percussionist plays the snare drum and cymbals. A music fan for most of his life, he takes his love of percussion from his father.

“My dad played them, and I grew up seeing him play so I gave it a try,” Benoit explained.

He was introduced to the community band two years ago, when his parents – both members – recruited him when another percussionist was needed. This year will be his second full year performing, and he’s already formed a tight bond with his fellow musicians. It’s also given him an outlet to perform for other people, as opposed to practicing alone at home.

“Everyone here is just out to have a good time,” Benoit said. “It’s free, and everybody is always having fun.”

Sitting near Benoit in the percussion section is Nonie Walder. At 89 years old, she has kept the community band’s beat on her bass drum for the past 30 years, making her one of its longest-serving members. Once an avid pianist, she picked up the bass drum owing to its simpler playing style.

It hasn’t changed much over the 30 years she’s been a member, and it’s remained, above all, a fun and welcoming place for musicians, she said.

“It’s good old clean family fun,” Walder said.

The community band kicked off its summer season with a pre-Independence Day concert set to patriotic beats and marches on July 1. Starting on July 11, weekly concerts will be held every Tuesday at the gazebo at Apponagansett Park at 6:30 p.m. through August. Concerts are free to attend.

Jacob Benoit, 11, is the band's youngest member. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
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