In an area where music creates the pulse of social gatherings, many Harrisonburg residents are unaware of one group that has given life to the scene for nearly three decades: the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Band.
Originally a post-World War II veteran’s band that experienced its most successful years in the 1960s, HRCB formed in 1984. Since then, the band has regularly performed at events in the area, including the James Madison University and Bridgewater Summer Concert Series, the annual Celebrate America Fourth of July concert in conjunction with the Shenandoah Valley Choral Ensemble and the Habitat For Humanity Christmas concert.
The band also plays for the senior citizens who reside in area retirement homes.
The band initially held rehearsals in the Seniors Activities Building in Hillandale Park, led by Bob Kellogg, a former Navy bandsman. After Kellogg retired in ’86, Laura Anderson, at the time in her early 40s — a JMU alumna and adjunct faculty member — took over. Unfortunately, her tenure as conductor was short-lived — she stepped down when battling breast cancer.
The band fell into good hands, however, when, in 1988, William G. “Bill” Posey stepped in and guided the band for the next 25 years.
“Laura approached me about possibly conducting the band,” said Posey, director of Concerts and Support Services for the JMU School of Music. “I met with the board, and talked with them. We agreed the best thing to do was for me to come and conduct a few rehearsals and see if they thought they could live with me. I think there were about 12 or 13 regulars in the band, at that time.”
On hearing the news of Anderson’s passing, Posey directed the band to play “Ashokan Farewell,” the theme from the Ken Burns’ Civil War series, at her funeral — an experience, he says, that was “emotional.”
“It was really tough, he said. “She worked very hard at getting the band going.”
Despite the loss, the band soldiered on.
In the early 90s, the band relocated its headquarters to Thomas Harrison Middle School.
“That was probably the best thing that happened to the band during my time,” said Posey. “We were grateful for having the place at Westover Park, but the band room was more suited to what we were doing.”
For the next few decades, he and the band enjoyed great success together. And when the run ran its peak, two years ago, Posey decided to step down.
“It was a very fun time, but I got to the point where I needed to spend more time with my family,” he said. “I felt that I had put enough of my imprint on the band.”
By the time Posey left, the band had some 65 members, from seasoned players to people picking up instruments for the first time in 20 years.
“He built this band from scratch and made it what it is now,” longtime HRCB member Ray Waddell, clarinet, said of Posey.
Posey informed the community board members of his impending retirement a year in advance, so they could take their time looking for a new conductor. He feels they chose the right person in hiring current director, and friend, Keith Hoodock.
“Keith’s a very fine musician; he’s doing good things with the band,” said Posey. “It’s a very fine line with community groups. You have to know what you’re doing, but you also have to know how to handle volunteers. Keith’s got that down.”
Hoodock, a licensed teacher and career woodwind who owns and operates Bridgewater Music Studios, has known Posey since their days as young musicians at JMU.
“He’s got all the history of what’s going on; I’m just carrying it on,” said Hoodock, now in his second year with the band.
Posey says he is glad he had the opportunity to give people a chance to awaken the dormant musician inside them.
“We’re very fortunate in this area that there are many folks who want to continue with their music,” he said. “It’s a rich environment for post-collegiate/scholastic musicians.”
Cathy Clare Brown, band director at J. Frank Hillyard Middle in Broadway, joined the band in 1990 and has been a mainstay ever since.
“It is an opportunity for me to be on the other side of the stick, just being able to perform,” said the piccoloist.
Paul Smith, who has been playing euphonium with the band for the past nine years, says his daughter, Rachel, inspired him to join the group.
“I hadn’t played in about 20 years,” said Smith. “My daughter was in Mrs. Brown’s middle school band when she was in the seventh grade. She started coming here after Mrs. Brown encouraged her to do it. After she had done it for a while, she encouraged me to join. It’s been something I continue to enjoy.”
Hoodock says people who have even the slightest inclination to play should join.
“It’s truly a community group, where everybody is just in it to have fun, make music, and provide a service for the community,” he said. “Often time, there isn’t a venue, an option, for them to go to — our doors are open.”
There are no auditions, and there is no charge — just show with your instrument.
For more information, visit hrcband.com.
Contact Therran M. Dennis at 574-6218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.