Heather Jones hadn’t touched her clarinet in seven years before last week, when she finally dusted off the case and bought new reeds.
A former band member at Irmo High School, the 31-year-old Jones grew to love music as a teenager but stashed away her instrument after she finished graduate school.
But she wasn’t the only out-of-practice musician to lift an instrument last week at the first practice of the new Lexington Community Band.
“I remembered more than I thought I would remember,” Jones said. “I guess it’s like riding a bike, as they say. You don’t forget.”
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If the musicians were as rusty as many of them claimed to be, they didn’t let on much as they prepared for a Dec. 15 concert, a chance for many who haven’t performed in years to get reacquainted with music and find themselves back on the stage.
“It’s more than the music. It’s what the music gives us,” said Brian Clancy, 52, a percussionist.
John Immerso, a former band director and a percussionist in the Carolina Wind Symphony, founded and directs the new band, which he hopes to see play at schools and community events in the future.
“Lexington wants this,” said Russ Rhodes, 61, who plays trombone in the band and teaches music in Lexington. “We might not know it, but Lexington wants this. What have we said in the public schools? That music is important.
“And if that’s really true in our community, then we’re going to support it, long after the last note on the football field sounds or in the concert halls.”
Folks representing a wide range of ages and skill levels were among the first 30 or so musicians to answer the call to join the band. They include current and former music educators, some people who play in other musical groups in other communities, parents of band students and quite a few musicians who hadn’t so much as polished their instruments since their high school or college band days.
At its first practice, the band easily jumped into a regal-sounding rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” with only a rare squeaky horn or errant clarinet to be heard. They followed with pieces for the concert, including a medley from the popular animated movie “Frozen” and an all-too-appropriately named tune called the “Lexington March.”
Not only did they impress Immerso with their first run-through of the music, but the musicians were pleasantly surprised with their own performance as a group.
“The first couple songs were a little rusty, but the more we got into it, it came back,” said Garrison Hilton, 29, a saxophonist who teaches dance and directs the color guard at River Bluff High School, where the band practices and will perform next month.
It’s been about a decade since Hilton last played his saxophone as a member of the College of Charleston pep band. Since then, there haven’t been many avenues available for him to play with other musicians, he said, and playing music fell off his list of priorities.
“I just loved playing my saxophone in high school,” Hilton said. “That was my life. So not having that happen for 10 years, it felt really good to pick it up and play again.”
That’s exactly what Rhodes, a 37-year music education veteran and former band director, would like to remind his former students of, in hopes they will take an interest in the community band.
“You’re going to be out of school one day ... but you can keep making music for a long time,” Rhodes said.