27 Dec 2016 | 07:21 | Written by Kirsten Abel, Features Writer
When Jim Glass called to inquire about auditioning for the Woodinville Community Band in 2001, he was asked just one question: “Do you own an instrument?”
Since then, the group has come a long way. In fact, in Glass’s words, it has become “a premier band in the Northwest.” There are now three bands that make up the whole organization, one large concert band and two smaller jazz bands, with a total of about 80 members.
But the transformation from amateur to “premier” didn’t happen overnight. Both Glass and the band’s president, Keith James, credit the concert band director, Leah Weitzsacker, with raising the overall skill level and quality of the band over the past decade.
“You don’t just come and pick up your horn once a week and mosey into band,” James said. “We work to get better.”
The band now holds informal auditions for every seat. “We’re always looking for talent,” James said. “We can always use more percussion.” Certain sections do have waiting lists.
The age range of musicians spans from 17 years old to over 70. Some learned to play their instruments in high school bands. Others are music teachers or directors themselves.
James plays trombone in the concert band and in one of the jazz bands. “Up until last year I still had the same trombone that I had in high school,” he said.
Glass plays saxophone and clarinet in the concert band and has his own jazz band called the Microsoft Jumping Jive Orchestra.
In 2006, Weitzsacker took the concert band director position on one condition — that the players wanted to continue to improve.
“We should always be striving for the highest excellence we can possibly achieve,” she said.
With 52 total members in the concert band, not every person has the rare ability to just sit down and play. That’s where Weitzsacker comes in. “I’m a teacher at heart,” she said. “I think everyone should get to play the best music they can.”
Concert band music is categorized by grades one through six. Weitzsacker said the band played mostly twos and threes in the past. Now, they regularly play fives and sixes.
Weitzsacker’s directing philosophy was part of what attracted James to first join the band about five years ago.
“It’s fun and interesting, but it’s also challenging,” he said. “We sight read what it used to take a whole season to work out.”
The organization started out in 1993 when former Woodinville Weekly publisher Carol Edwards placed an ad in the paper. The first rehearsal took place in the parking lot of Woodinville’s Las Margaritas Mexican restaurant.
Rehearsals have since become much more official and are held once a week. A commitment to attendance is required to join.
All of the members of the band, including the directors, participate on a volunteer basis. The proceeds earned from gigs and donations go back to the organization. “It’s all an act of love,” James said.
What may have been a simple hobby has become a source of pride and camaraderie.
Glass called the band a network of friends. “A two-hour practice can seem like five minutes,” he said. “It’s just a glorious experience to be playing with such talented people.”
The concert band performs three times per year at the Redmond High School auditorium. Each jazz band plays about six gigs per year, and are also available for hire.
The concert band’s two upcoming concerts occur on March 19, 2017 and on May 14, 2017. Each concert usually has a theme.
March’s concert is themed “Dance,” and Weitzsacker said the performance will include a variety of songs connected to dance, including Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story and other Broadway musical numbers.
“This group is a lot of fun. They are so enthusiastic,” she said. “I can’t wait for us to play some of the music that I’ve chosen.”
For more information about upcoming performances or to find out how to audition, visit http://www.woodinvilleband.org.