SPRING CONCERT: Southeast Alabama Community Band to perform at university
Published 3:00 am Saturday, April 30, 2016
The old adage, “The best things in life are free” often comes into question these days. But not by those who have heard the “free” concerts presented by the Southeast Alabama Community Band. The band’s annual spring concert is always free but the general consensus is that the concert is so good you’ll want to pay for it anyway.
The Southeast Alabama Community Band will present its 16th Annual Concert at 7 p.m. Monday at the Claudia Crosby Theater on the campus of Troy University. The concert is free and open to the public.
Director James Smith will lead the band that was founded by Dr. Johnny Long in 2001.
WTBF Radio personality Ralph Black played for Long at Robert E. Lee High School “a half century or more ago.” He plays clarinet in the community band and likes to tell the story of how the band was formed.
“I was in Hawaii with the Troy University basketball team and Dr. Long called my house to tell me about his idea to form a community band,” Black said. “For seven days, he left messages on my answering machine. ‘Ralph, Johnny Long. Call me.’ ‘Ralph, why are you not calling me!’ Ralph, are you mad at me?’ Dr. Long had gotten mad. As soon as I got home and heard all those messages, I called him. When the Great White Father speaks, everybody comes.”
Dr. Johnny Long, who directed the community band for 12 years, takes no credit for the success of the Southeast Alabama Community Band. He said the success lies in the quality of the musicians and their love of playing music.
“Now that I’m not directing the band, I can say that it is the best community band that I’ve ever heard,” Long said. “The band members are all outstanding, dedicated musicians, all 52 or so of them.”
Long said the band members come from all walks of life. The band is made up of professors, teachers, principals, retired colonels, police officers, accountants, an Eagle Scout, a jeweler, a geologist, an ABC agent, many members of the business community and several university students. The represent four branches of the military – Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
The band members represent colleges across the Southeast including Troy, Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and Southern Mississippi. They come from places like Elba, Enterprise, Montgomery, Wetumpka and from as far away as Fort Walton every Monday night from January through mid-May.
“They are a dedicated group,” said James Smith, who was handpicked by Long as his “replacement” three years ago.
Smith said the dedication to the band is founded in the band members’ love of music and in the friendships that are developed.
“Music is a great equalizer,” Smith said. “We play together as a whole. As a whole, we are better. We are all enriched by the music.”
Smith said music is a lifetime endeavor and that is evident in the wide range of ages of the members of the Southeast Alabama Community Band.
John Michael McCall gave testimony to that. Both he and his son, play tuba in the band. McCall played for Long in the Sound of the South when he was a student at Troy University. When he returned to campus five years ago, as chief of police, McCall said Long was the first person to greet him.
“Dr. Long said he was conducting a community band and needed a tuba player,” McCall said. “He said ‘practice is Monday at 7, don’t be late.’ I wasn’t and I’ve been a member of the band ever since.”
McCall said, too, the generation gap allows him and his son, Justin, who is a student at the university to play side by side.
“It’s a unique opportunity to play with people of different ages,” he said. “When we first started playing in the band together, I thought I played better than Justin. Now, after three years at the university, he can outplay me.”
And, according to local lore, the Southeast Alabama Community Band can outplay any community band around. And Monday night will be a great time, one of the few times, to hear the band in concert this concert season.
Smith said the performance will include Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” “The Purple Carnival” and “Polka and Fugue.”
Doc Kirby and Lindsey Gordon will be the highlighted vocalists on “Fiddler on the Roof. Ray Smith, university professor and professional musician will pay tribute to Frank Sinatra singing “Come Fly with Me.” “King Cotton” will feature Teresa Sims and “Two Debussy Moments will feature Tom Madox.
Patriotic music will include “The National Anthem,” “America the Beautiful” and the official march of the United States, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” And, for the homefolks, “My Home’s in Alabama.”
The Troy Arts Council will present its annual arts awards for music, art and volunteerism at the beginning of the concert.
The concert is free and everyone is invited to the band’s hometown concert. The band will also be in concert at 7 p.m. Monday, May 9 at Wetumpka High School and Monday, May 16 at Montgomery Frazer.