Formed more than 50 years ago, the Colonie Town Band is a truly intergenerational group made up of dedicated amateur musicians ranging from teenagers to octogenarians. No auditions are required to join; new members are always welcome.
The Band carries on the long tradition of community bands in the United States. For more than 175 years, various civic bands have provided entertainment to the communities in which they live. As a matter of fact, the Band is a member of the Association of Concert Bands, an organization that encourages and fosters adult concert community, municipal, and civic bands.
A young conductor leads the band
Sponsored by the Parks & Recreation Department of the Town of Colonie, New York, the band performs more than 20 concerts a year free of charge at community venues including nursing homes, town parks, shopping malls, museums, county fairs, schools, and many other events. Read the positive feedback received for past performances.
A portion of the donations received for performances are used to fund the Frank Mooney Memorial Prize, an award benefiting a Colonie High School graduating senior.
History of the Band
Malcolm (Mal) Pappin was the first director of the Colonie Town Band. In 1964 he was the music supervisor for the North Colonie School District. Mal had been a member of the Albany Symphony (trumpet), Chairman of the NY State Teachers’ Association and on many committees including Suburban Scholastic Council of Music, and the International Music Educator’s Conference. He has published songs and works for jazz, orchestra and chorus.
In an article he wrote that was published in the NY State School Music News in the May –June 1965 issue he writes “If I were to make a list of the things important to a town, I’d put the community band up near the top. What is a community band? It’s a concert band, a dance band, a Dixieland band. It’s a reflection of the capability of a town for music, culture and recreation. It’s a product of the heart, hand and mind channeled into civic action in a good and positive manner. It’s people. It’s talent organized and polished, a town with its “best foot forward.” It’s service, creativity and shared enjoyment.
“Community bands are practical. They educate and entertain. They bring ceremonies to life. They awaken civic pride.
“All the world loves a band. Yes, a community band should be near the top of the list of things that are important to a town. If there’s one near you join it and support it. If there’s not one close at hand, organize one. You’ll be glad you did. So will the people where you live.”
So in September 1964 a letter of invitation was sent out calling on the talents of area citizens who enjoy playing music of all styles from show, classical, and pop to marches and light concert that the Town of Colonie Recreation Commission, now the Department of Parks and Recreation, was sponsoring a community band with requests for more information directed to Mal.
The first rehearsal was held at Shaker Junior High School on Oct. 5, 1964. The mimeographed handout noted dates of rehearsals for the year, encouraged regular practicing to reach a high quality of performance, proper care of instruments, as well as committees needed and aims and objectives and goals of the band. Among these were to sponsor programs for entertainment, civic betterment, to identify local history, unique institutions and cultural and patriotic happenings, to provide social opportunities for band members, their families and friends and friends of music, to develop a spirit that is unique in playing band music for JOY OF PLAYING.
There were about 16 musicians at that first rehearsal, swelling to 35-40 in the next two months with only one woman among them. Twenty members within the group formed a dance band directed by Frank Miller.
The first concert was held at Shaker Junior HS on March 15, 1965. Selections played by the band included” The Klaxon”, “Mount of Might”, “The Sound of Music”, and “ El Capitan” and a clarinet concerto. The dance band , played “Tonight” from West side Story and “Days of Wine and Roses”. The band was well-received by the near capacity audience. The band also played at the dedication of the Town Hall when the cornerstone was placed by William K. Sanford.
Mal relocated to California in 1966 where he pursued multiple careers in professional, classical, jazz performance on trumpet, music education, and public school administration. He also composed music for several professional NFL teams.
Dick Noll and Roger Bacon succeeded Mal as directors. Frank Waddington took over the podium in 1974.
Highlights in 1976 included the National Bicentennial Celebration and the Albany Tricentennial.
Since 1986 the band has entertained audiences on Old Fashioned Sunday at the Pruyn House complex in Latham.
On September 15, 1986 the band played at the Dedication of the Gazebo at the Town Hall. It was never really big enough for the band. So we played in front of it most years.
On the occasion of the band’s 25th anniversary in 1989 Mal returned to the capital district as a guest conductor, conducting his own composition “Colonie Town Band Prelude and March”. The saxophone quartet with Ian Cohen, Harvey Gold, Mark Gardner and Tom Thompson played the George Cohan Medley. That celebration was held at the Colonie Elk’s Club in Latham.
The first volume of the band newsletter, Tempos in a Teapot, written and published by Bob Suss, began in 1992 and continued for 15 years. There were 2 issues published every year.
It featured articles on famous composers and bands, concert etiquette, being a better band member, getting to know our band members, special town events, our band schedule and dates for other musical concerts of interest and events.
It became obsolete with the dawning of computers when the band’s website launched in 2007.
At the age of 73, Frank Mooney became the band’s vocalist in 1994. He attended the Julliard School of Music, served in the Navy during WW II and Korean War, earned a BA in English from Siena College, sang with many local bands and groups and taught English and Philosophy at Colonie High School. One of our scholarships was established in his memory. The band also awards a scholarship in memory of George Coulter who passed on earlier this year.
During the Town of Colonie’s Centennial in 1995 there were many special events. “Pops” Goes the Centennial Concert at Colonie High School featured the town band, Colonie and Shaker High School bands. The three bands were divided so that there were members of the 3 bands in each group…a white band, red band and blue band. A selection was played from each of the decades from the 1890’s “American Patrol” to the 1990’s “Into the Storm”. Bob Suss and Jack Hotchkiss gave musical and historical annotations. Liz Bishop, news anchor from WRGB TV 6 gave commentary and historical context.
There was also an Interfaith Service of Thanksgiving held at Siena College featuring a chorus and members from the band who formed what became the Colonie Centennial Brass Choir, which will celebrate its 20th year in 2015!
Other groups formed within the band include: other saxophone quartets, a horn quartet, tuba & baritone ensemble. (Christmas.)
The 35th anniversary of the band was at the Buhrmaster Barn at the Pruyn House Complex in 1999, the same year we celebrated Frank Waddington’s 25 years as director. Jane Oppenlander was already assisting Frank.
The 40th anniversary of the band was a picnic held at The Crossings, where the band had played at the dedication of that new park earlier in the month.
In 2005 Frank retired as director and Jane Oppenlander and Joe Trupia became co-directors.
In 2009 a very successful mentoring program was begun at Maplewood Elementary School. Lisa Verchereau, music teacher and band member saw the need for extra help. Several members went into school each week and gave half hour lessons. In 2011 members of the town band performed together with the student band at an assembly.
Jane was quoted in a previous interview as saying “Perhaps the greatest pleasure is sharing our love of music with the community—particularly senior citizens and children. It’s great to make music for yourself, but even better to be able to give it away.”
With Joe’s retirement in 2012, Jeff Seckinger and Iris Tozzi assisted Jane as band directors.
Excerpted from Priscilla Johnson’s “CTB—Around the Band in 50 Years” speech at the Band’s 50th Anniversary Banquet