In the way that pop songs have a “hook” that keeps listeners humming, the Laguna Concert Band attracts musicians and keeps them playing for years.
And they are as diverse as they are talented.
“When you look at the beautiful venues we play in…, and then take into account the quality of band we have become, what musician wouldn’t want to play with us?” asked Matt Wood, the band’s president.
The testimonies of three relatively new band members bear him out, particularly in regards to the band’s level of professional expertise.
Locals who are skeptical can find out for themselves when the band performs a “Musical Spooktacular” this Sunday, Oct. 30, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Laguna Playhouse. Featuring vocalists Linda Hughes and Ginger Hatfield, MC Lona Ingwerson, guest artists and numbers including the “Harry Potter Medley,” the performance will be rounded out with fog, scary sounds and a bass phantom, special affects befitting the season. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the Playhouse box office or by calling 949-497-2787.
The brainchild of flutist Theresa Marino, local conductor Dr. Bill Nicholls and former Laguna Beach Arts Commission member and musician Carol Reynolds, the band was first conceived 15 years ago as an eight-member class offered through the Laguna Beach recreation department. Today, the all-volunteer band is a registered nonprofit organization run by a seven-member board, and it boasts 65 members, including three conductors who lead up to 20 concerts a year. Music director Ed Peterson shares the podium with Nicholls and Pete Fournier.
Along the way, various subgroups took root, such as Laguna Flutes, SwingSet, and Third Street Strutters, a Dixieland band, among others. Though ranging in experience from professionals to those just picking up their instrument after years of disuse, members cultivate a “band culture” that strives for excellence. In addition to practice at home, members rarely miss the three-hour weekly rehearsals, periodically supplemented with master classes by guest professionals.
The experience of clarinetist Toni Reid, 42, of Laguna Hills, is typical. Her serendipitous return to music occurred when she started work in Yamaha Music’s import department in June and met fellow employee and trombonist Nancy Rowland, an LCB member who recruited her.
Reid said she now plays “with the fire and passion” of her earlier years and appreciates members who frequently offer technical insights and guidance. “I’ve learned so much,” she said, adding that it “encourages me to strive to practice and challenge myself.”
Don Haudenschild, of Aliso Viejo, a retired music teacher, found the band on the Internet when he moved to California from Long Island, New York, 18 months ago. The trumpeter and trombonist lost no time becoming immersed in the band, playing in the two swing bands, volunteering on the marketing committee and joining the board. “It’s a wonderful place to learn and rehearse great music under three outstanding conductors and be with wonderful people every Tuesday night,” he said.
Jim McGaugh, nationally-recognized professor of neurobiology and behavior at UC Irvine, sings the band’s praises enthusiastically and often. “For me, it’s just fun, inspirational and rewarding to be able to play with such good musicians,” said the two-year band member and Newport Beach resident.
He discovered the group through a friend and band member, Harold Moore, a chemistry professor. After one rehearsal, McGaugh, who plays clarinet and alto sax, was determined to stay on “whether they wanted me or not.”
The dedication, talent and professionalism of his fellow members is encouraging and rewarding, said McGaugh, who appreciates conductors who “continue to raise the bar,” challenging players with an increasingly difficult repertoire. He also participates in the Laguna Swing Society, and plays with some small jazz groups outside the band.
Wood hadn’t played music for 25 years when he inadvertently got involved with the band after giving his father a trumpet for his 70th birthday. Len Wood, who opened the antique Indian art gallery Len Wood’s Indian Territory, hadn’t played since high school. After taking lessons for a year from a band member, Len Wood joined the band and urged his son to do the same.
When his son protested, Len Wood pointed out that a 25-year hiatus was nothing compared to his own 53-year silence.
“I went in, sat last chair, and, quite unexpectedly, had a blast,” Matt Wood recalls. Six years later, he is band president, plays principal trumpet for the band and lead trumpet for the SwingSet, started the Third Street Strutters, and works tirelessly to raise community awareness about this musical gem.
“Laguna has always out-performed other communities when it comes to the arts, and it is our goal to raise the musical arts to the level of the performing and visual arts that Laguna Beach is world-renowned for,” said Wood.
Future concerts include an appearance by SwingSet at the Sawdust Winter Fantasy on Nov. 19, and a performance by the full band during Hospitality Night on Dec. 2. For details, visit http://lccband.org.