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Playing it forward

Published 9:23am Thursday, May 23, 2013

It feels like after a few starts and stalls through the years, a Dowagiac alumni band might take root and become a tradition in tandem with the Union High School spring concert.
With social media, it’s easier to muster rusty musicians. About 20 answered the call for a spirited rendition of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever, namesake of the top senior award and a long-ago visitor to Dowagiac.
It was a Mr. Holland moment to turn the baton over to Rich Bressler, who so ably fed fledgling instrumentalists into the high school ranks from the junior high in the late 1960s until the mid-1990s.
Almost everyone on stage started under his tutelage.
Guest soloist Connie Wicklund, Decatur’s director, goes way back with Dowagiac Director C.J. Brooks.
We hope the idea of an alumni band flies because what organization can’t benefit by tapping the talents of its alumni? It gives new meaning to “band family.”
While some turned pro — Chieftain trumpet player turned Lakeshore director Phil Huff, for example, or Phil Barham, assistant professor of saxophone at Tennessee Technological University, who has put his virtuosity on display at the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival, come to mind — most thought it sounded like fun after packing horns away for other pursuits.
Alumni were exposed to the caliber of musicianship being instilled in today’s bands by Brooks and Mike Petersen.
If the Snake Award can endure for 40 years, imagine what a rich alumni band tradition could bring to the podium, filling the Performing Arts Center as full as football bleachers on a Friday night.

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