Art Space: 86 trombones - and other instruments - in the big band | April 24, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Living - April 24, 2009

Art Space: 86 trombones - and other instruments - in the big band

by John A. Barry

The Bay Area is home to innumerable community bands. One of the largest - if not the largest - is found in your hometown, Danville. Currently boasting 86 members, the Danville Community Band has been in existence since 2001. The year before that, Larry Anderson "looked around and said, 'Hey, Danville does not have a community band.'"

Anderson, the retired Director of Bands at UC Davis, had been playing clarinet and sax with the Contra Costa Wind Symphony when he had his epiphany about Danville's bandlessness. It then took him and his wife, Jan, a year to remedy the situation.

"First we took the proposal to the town," Anderson recalls. "They liked the idea but said they couldn't help financially."

He also learned that he would have to start the band as a nonprofit organization. Luckily, an attorney friend "agreed to do the 501 (c ) (3) pro bono." Still, illnesses and other circumstances protracted the process, and a year elapsed between conception and realization.

Then trepidation set in, recalls Larry. "There were so many bands in the area that we wondered, 'Will there be any musicians left?'" A newspaper ran a story announcing the band's first rehearsal. "We expected that maybe 20 people might show up," Larry recalls. "The first night, over 50 people walked in the door."

Eight years later, the big band is going strong. Members come from 26 communities, some driving from as far away as Davis to make Monday rehearsals. Jan points to the loyalty of members as well as the community. She and her husband note that the band can fill the 1,100-seat East Bay Fellowship ("the largest venue in Danville") for its holiday concert, one of five performed during the band's September-July season.

But, "Danville does not have a performing venue that's big enough for our audiences," says Larry. "The new San Ramon Valley High School auditorium is lovely, but it holds only 400 people. We get more than that at our concerts." The band's big spring concert has been held at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, but Larry explains that they plan to try the new Front Row Theater at the Dougherty Station Community Center.

Larry is now the band's director emeritus, having "turned over the baton to associate conductor Robert Calonico" on Dec. 7. (I was unable to reach Calonico in time for this installment of "Art Space" but will attempt to do a follow-up at a later date.)

Larry says that the band is a microcosm of the community. The youngest member is 14, the oldest 86. One member, a doctor, had not played his trumpet in 51 years. "He heard about the band, started taking some lessons, and is now a full-fledged member of the trumpet section," explains Larry. In spite of the large number of players, he adds, the band has balanced instrumentation, for example, eight saxes: four altos, two tenors and two baritones.

Jan, the band's PR "nerve center," according to Larry, alluded to community loyalty. This loyalty is manifested in part by the Community Presbyterian Church, which provides free rehearsal space, and audience donations - without which the band could not exist, Larry and Jan note. These donations have enabled the band to purchase a great deal of sheet music as well as percussion instruments. A recent acquisition was a $4,000 vibraphone. Tympani can run from $5,000-$20,000, says Larry.

As for the band's repertoire: "You name it, we play it!" he says.

Interestingly, Jan was raised in Elkhart, Ind., once the "band instrument capital of the world." She says jokingly, "That's why he married me!"

For more on the Danville Community Band, including schedules, go to

--John A. Barry is a writer and aspiring artist. To share anything art-related, call him at 314-9528 or e-mail


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