Mr. Neiman answers some questions on the following subjects:

Audience Basics

Question: Where and when do you play?

Maestro: Medina Community Band (MCB) rehearses in the band room of the Highland High School. Rehearsals are from 7 pm until 9 pm every Wednesday, September through the end of July.

The band performs two to three concerts at the Middle Stage Auditorium at the Medina High School. The concerts have been on rehearsal nights (Wednesday), with the exception of the annual EHOVE Career Center (Milan, Ohio) concert, which is on a Sunday afternoon in the spring.

Concerts on Medina’s Uptown Park Square Gazebo are held Friday evenings at 8:30 pm. That’s when the sun sinks below the buildings on the west end of the square. Starting before that time would blind the musicians.

Question: How to I get to Medina’s Square?

Maestro: Medina is located about 24 miles south of Cleveland and 14 miles west of Akron. Medina’s Uptown Park Square is located at the intersections of State Routes 42, 3, and 18. Just eight miles west of the I-71, Rt. 18 intersection, the Square can best be found via Internet on one of the location finding sites like MapQuest.

Question: Where do I park?

Maestro: There are numerous parking areas throughout the "uptown" Medina Square area. Lots are one block west of the square, one block south of the square, numerous space behind the County Courthouse (east of the square). There are parking spots "on the square" for those who arrive early. All parking is free!

Question: How long are the programs?

Maestro: Band concerts last approximately 60 to 80 minutes without an intermission.

Question: What happens if it rains?

Maestro: Summer storms are sometimes short and heavy, and often come without much advance notice. Usually, however, we have enough time to announce the procedure is as follows: (1) the band is notified by phone and an email notification is sent; (2) an email notification is sent to the band "fan" list; (3) the community band association attempts to contact the local electronic media to get the cancellation on their listing; (4) time permitting, we attempt to get the notice on the city service call: 330.725.CITY. Fans are asked NOT to call the Maestro, to allow him to get the word out to band members.

Potential New Band Members

Question: Do you need new members?

Maestro: Membership is open to adults who play a wind or percussion instrument. The band is a volunteer organization, but we expect that attendance is regular from our players. The difficulty level of the music ranges from grade 2 or 3 (high school) to grade 5 and 6 (college/university and professional). The average level is probably grade 4. While there are no auditions, we encourage new members to be realistic about their playing ability and the level of music we are playing.

The Maestro is finding that more and more of our players are taking private lessons on their instrument to "progress forward" (and mom’s not making them do it either). Many have purchased professional level instruments. In short, playing in MCB has become more than a hobby for them, it has become something very important and they desire to grow from the experience.

Those individuals questioning whether they might enjoy playing are encouraged to either come to a rehearsal and "sit it," or simply to visit. All rehearsals are open.

Question: Who gets to be in the community band?

Maestro: As stated above, membership is open to all adults. While there are a few high school students in the group, they have been recommended by their band director and auditioned to see if they are playing at an appropriate level.
Most office, members of MCB played a band instrument in high school. Many played their instrument in college and beyond. A growing number of musicians in the band play in more than one musical organization. Only 15 or 20 percent of the band make music their vocation, the rest just play for the enjoyment!

Question: How often and where do you rehearse?

Maestro: Weekly rehearsals, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, begin the first Wednesday in September and conclude the last Wednesday in July. Medina Community Band will be rehearsing in the band room of Highland High School, 4150 Ridge Road, (Medina, OH 44256). The facility is on the West side of Route 94 (Ridge Road).

Question: What level of music do you play?

Maestro: Primarily, we play music between grades 4 to 6. That means, music that outstanding high school bands, college/universities, and professional bands would play.

Question: How can I join?

Maestro: Potential members should contact the Maestro, either via phone or email ( It is helpful to let the Maestro know a bit about your background: what instrument you play, how long, your level of playing, and your availability to play with the group on Wednesday evenings.

Section leaders usually "set" new players. For those who have not played in some years, we normally "ease them in" on second or third parts within the section. The Maestro reserves the right to place people within the band.

Question: What are the responsibilities of being a member?

Maestro: Like any volunteer organization, members are expected to arrive on time for rehearsal and be regular in attendance. Those missing rehearsals are asked to email or leave voice-mail for either their section leaders and/or the Maestro. If they take a music folder home, they must arrange to have it back for rehearsal.

Members are expected to come to rehearsal prepared to play the music (that means they have to practice the parts at home). They must be willing to accept constructive criticism within the ensemble and strive to grow as a musician.

Conductor Questions

Question: How do the musicians watch you and their music?

Maestro: Making the assumption that musicians actually watch the Maestro! Actually, musicians are trained to glance at the conductor above the music rack on regular basis to keep tempo, check style, determine mood.

The conductor’s responsibility goes beyond "beating time." In the best of worlds, the conductor must cue soloists or section solos and encourage them to play within the style desired by gestures of the baton. The conductor maintains and changes tempi with the speed of his conducting pattern and this encourages the musicians to "follow." Further, musical considerations are communicated through the baton.

The conductor, thus, serves as a conduit from the composer’s wishes to the audience, encouraging the musicians to play as an ensemble.

Question: How do you decide what is on the program?

Maestro: Planning for the entire concert season (fall, winter, spring, and summer) is a year-long process. Basic determination of larger works (overtures, suites, and symphonic literature) begins first, taking into consideration the ability of the ensemble, the difficulty of the music, and the variety of the program.

Soloist and ensemble members are then placed within the list of music to be offered during the year. Music must be secured, rehearsals arranged, and determinations made to either have the entire ensemble or only section leaders (one-on-a-part) accompany the music. It is not uncommon for special arrangements to be made for the band.

While there is no "formula," anyone who follows the band would find it hard not to notice that there is a pre-determined pattern for the summer concerts. Selections are made and compositions "dropped" into spaces for the entire season.

The prime considerations for music selection is to provide the listener with the widest range of musical styles possible. Consideration is made to continue the programming style of those concert bands who performed from 1875 to 1930 and beyond. Concerts on the square are given for enjoyment of the musicians and the audience. They are not provided to "educate," nor are they provided to "push the musical envelope" into the 21st century.

Music selection for indoor concerts tends to be a bit more progressive and does "push the musical envelope." We attempt to challenge our musicians as well as entertain our audience during the indoor season.

MCB has been know for not only the huge volume of marches performed, but the skill, style, and musical quality with which those marches are performed. We probably play close to 100 different marches a year.

Question: What is a "Characteristic?"

Maestro: The term, "characteristic" describes a stylized composition for solo trombone section. Usually, we can also refer to this type of music as a "trombone smear." Historically, the term refers to its "characterizing" a ragtime, jazz, or simply syncopated rhythm composition featuring the trombone section. It was said that this type piece also refers back to the vaudeville days and minstrel shows with white musicians attempting to characterize the music and styles of black musicians.

Question: What is the difference between "Euphonium TC" and "Euphonium BC?"

Maestro: The difference is one of which clef (tenor or bass) is read by the musician. The question would also come to mind, what is the difference between a baritone and a Euphonium? That could well take more time. The British and British band instruments make more determinations of differences in bore (the metal piping) of an instrument.

Question: Why do you use a baton?

Maestro: Historical tradition! The composer Lully is probably the first to have used a "stick" as a baton. Unfortunately, it was a large stick that he hammered on the floor. He got a bit carried away and stabbed his foot during a heated section of the music. This caused a wound that later became infected. Lully is thus the first conductor to die from his own beat!

Since that time, the baton has been crafted to more of a tiny, white, stick. It is my instrument and I must practice it’s use, just as much as a member of the ensemble practices on an instrument. It is more than an extension of the conductor’s arm, it is a focal point for the musicians to watch.

Question: Who were your mentors?

Maestro: Probably my first mentors were my band directors. Eugene Thrall and Joe Lentine (who were my high school band directors) encouraged my efforts to learn to conduct. It was Mr. Thrall who helped me conduct "Air for Band" with the Akron Buchtel High School Band in 1965 or 1966. Darrell Witters and Richard Jackoboice (The University of Akron), Bill Revelli and Elizabeth Green (The University of Michigan), served as mentors during my university years. Milt Nelson and Miriam Hutchins mentored me through those formative student teaching years.

Jim Kirk (retired band director from Nordonia Junior High, now deceased), Bob Feldbush, Ed Lichtenberg, and Ed Siennicki all helped guide my path as a music educator. Warren George (University of Cincinnati), Paul Thoms (Fairfield City Schools, retired), and Lee Suman (Cincinnati) encouraged my growth as a professional music educator in The Ohio Music Education Association.

In retirement, as I continue to grow in community service, I find that Dr. DeLorre Haddad services as my mentor. I have been extremely fortunate to have had numerous people who have "been there for me." I can only offer them my heartfelt thanks and the knowledge that I am now serving as a mentor for many people to pass on what they gave me to another generation.

Question: What is the best way to get my child to play an instrument?

Maestro: Encourage, don’t force! Offer the opportunity for your child to play a musical instrument. Attempt to avoid the tendency to say, "I played this instrument and since we have one, you should play it too!"

An instrument is an extension of a person. Offer your child the opportunity to see, hear, and examine the various wind, string, and percussion instruments. Talk with your local school instrumental music teacher and explore the possibilities of playing an instrument.

Question: How do I choose which instrument my child should play?

Maestro: Do not "choose" your child’s instrument. Rather, help assist your child in having the opportunity to examine, explore, and experience as many instruments in a discovery mode as possible. Then, work with your child to narrow the field down to one or two instruments that your child likes and feels comfortable playing. At this point, contact your school instrumental music teacher or a professional musician/teacher for making that final decision.

Don’t expect that your child can play "Aunt Bessie’s" cornet that has been in your basement for 20 years. If you have an instrument(s) and your child expresses an interest in that instrument, take it to a qualified repairperson and make sure it’s in playing condition. There’s nothing more frustrating for a musician than to attempt to play an instrument that is hard to play.

Student model instruments are fine for beginners. You don’t have to buy the "best model" available. Do comparative shopping! My personal encouragement is to shop locally if possible. Further, I encourage you to purchase a musical instrument from a music merchant. While you can find musical instruments in many discount markets, on-line, or out-of-state, your best bet is to buy Medina, or at least buy Ohio.

Here’s why. Your qualified music merchant is a professional and will work with you and your child to find an instrument that plays best for your child. Musical instruments are precision instruments and mostly hand made. They are not all alike, some play better than others – that means you need to "try them out."

Finally, let me encourage you to remember that buying locally, or at least within the state for that beginner instrument is an insurance policy of sorts. Purchasing a musical instrument from a local music merchant insures that if something goes wrong, if the instrument doesn’t work, or if it breaks, you can get it fixed or have your problem solved quickly. Order an instrument on-line, or through a discount mart might save you dollars at the front end, but will cost you more time and money then you can believe along the way and at the other end. A word to the wise.




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