One thing I love about living in the Clare County area is the Gateway Community Band. Formed in 2005 under long-retired Clare Schools band director Ken Feneley, the Gateway Community Band serves as a place for adults of all ages to meet and play great music every Thursday. Now that it is fall once again, practice is in full swing in preparation for the Christmas concert in mid-December.
Gateway is its own little community in many ways. The people who are part of the band vary greatly and come from all walks of life. Ranging in age from 18 such as myself to octogenarians, these people are pastors, police officers, and administrators by day. By night, though (at least on Thursday evenings), these people are musicians, sharing a mutual love of instrumental music. Also mixed in are half a dozen Mid students, myself included–you can see some of us below. We all went to high school together, and we’ve played music with each other for many years now. Nowadays we’re still a pretty tight bunch, and it’s nice to see them every week.
Aside from my having my old friends in the group, the band is a great experience on a number of levels. Gateway provides a way to connect with people you wouldn’t normally interact with. Oftentimes people say it is hard to make friends across generations—Gateway overcomes this stereotype. At the first rehearsal I attended (a little over one year ago), I was welcomed like an old friend.
At the time there were only two people in the band that I knew, but the other fifty-odd members made certain to welcome me into the band. The trumpet section leader introduced himself and got to know me right away, and the President of the band, Chuck, made sure to tell me that Gateway was “my band,” and that my opinion was as welcome as that of everybody else. Here we are now, a year later, and I have fully become another member of the band.
This past year with the band has been quite eye-opening for me in many ways. Last year was my first year out of high school, and I was still very much riding the post-graduation wave, unsure of what to do with all my spare time. I was still very much in the mentality of a high school student. I went into my first rehearsal unsure of what to expect.
Once we started playing warm-ups that night, I knew I was completely outclassed. It humbled me when I heard some of the people playing, and I was very unaccustomed to it. I knew almost immediately that this was a group of people who were genuinely passionate about their music. Flash forward to this year, and I feel I have grown a lot with the band. I’m much more comfortable with my place in it, and I am no longer afraid to speak to my fellow members. I finally developed some badly-needed social skills that I unfortunately just believed I didn’t have a use for in high school. My time in Gateway has brought a lot of good changes to me, and I am a better person for being a part of it.
Photo Credits: Carrie Nageotte, sourced from GCB website http://www.gatewaybands.org/.