“He was an inspiration and the guy who really put all the pieces together,” Clifton said.
They advertised in a local newspaper. The first two musicians to sign up played piccolo and trumpet, Clifton said. Initially, they didn’t get enough response, but they advertised again, and a few more joined. Soon, the group was able to start rehearsing.
Scott has since passed away, but his wife, who is in her 90s, still remembers the early days. Speaking from her home in Florida, she said she was pleased to hear the band was thriving.
“It was really wonderful,” she said, for the band to give concerts in surrounding towns and bring joy to the audience and musicians alike. “It gave them the feeling that they could get enjoyment playing an instrument, and it didn’t cost them anything.”
One of the first musicians in the group was June Blumenthal, who lives in Sharon. Lured by the promise that she need not audition, she hauled out the trombone she hadn’t played since high school and jumped right in. She was nervous, but Scott was wonderful, “always upbeat,” she said. Over the years, the level of play has improved, and the group is more cohesive, she said. Some members, including the trombone players, have sectional rehearsals outside the regular schedule.
Fellow trombonist Mark Freitas of Walpole has played with the bands for about 19 years. His story is typical; he slowly let go of his instrument after college, but picked it up again when he heard about the bands. “As an adult, it’s difficult to find places where you can make quality instrumental music,” he said.
Today, Frietas is a member of the board of directors. Keeping the quality of performance high and the atmosphere inclusive can be a difficult balancing act, he said, but the bands do their best to pull it off. When he first joined, he said, he didn’t really have to practice, but now, “we play music that, man, if I don’t come home and work on it, I can’t hold up my end in the group.”
Bell takes seriously the challenge to raise musicianship continually, and he believes the term “community band” sells his group short. Their vocations may lie in other fields — as business owners, administrative assistants, information technologists, and more — but the members can still unite to make good music, he said.
With the bands now going strong, some sections are full, but Bell would love to have more bass clarinets, tubas, French horns, percussion, and double-reeded instruments.
In recent years, Freitas said, the bands have “kind of reached the pinnacle” of performance. He hopes the future is bright — that despite the challenges of drawing audiences to a wind ensemble, the Sharon Bands can continue to make their music and uphold the legacy of the last 25 years.
Jennette Barnes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.