History of the Montgomery Village Community Band
The Montgomery Village Community Band, now a musical fixture in the area, plays for various MVF functions, including the Fourth of July celebration, and appears at nearby senior citizen homes throughout the year, especially at holiday times. The band a tradition of an annual Toys for Tots Concert in December to collect toys for the US Marines program. We also perform a Halloween concert with the members in costume, which is always fun for the band and the audience. The MVCB performs for the City of Gaithersburg and in Montgomery County parks. Over the years, the band has held joint concerts with local school bands. The MVCB was one of the charter participants in the annual Maryland Community Band Day celebration, which began in 1989, and it hosted the event in June, 1999 and again in May, 2008. Members of the band have volunteered their time to mentor student players at the Gaithersburg Middle School.
The precise founding of the Montgomery Village Community Band is uncertain. It is dimly remembered that initial attempts to start an adult band in Montgomery Village in 1979 were foiled by underwhelming response, but later that year critical mass was achieved and regular rehearsals started under the leadership of Jim Hier, the musical director at nearby Seneca Valley High School. The Montgomery Village Foundation (MVF), administrator of the planned community of Montgomery Village, MD, sponsored the band from the beginning, paying for rehearsal space in local schools and providing the director with a modest honorarium. This arrangement with MVF continues to the present day, having survived many rounds of civic belt-tightening over the years.
The fledgling band set sail on choppy waters. Attendance was spotty and there was little consensus between the director and the members about its direction. Hier left the band after the first year and was replaced by Ellsworth (Ellie) Briggs, the band director at Gaithersburg High School. (Montgomery Village adjoins the incorporated City of Gaithersburg.) This change marked the beginning of a period of growth and stability for the band. Almost all the band's current "old timers" joined during the Briggs years. It was early in this phase that the band settled on its name, after momentous debates pitting the "Montgomery Village Community Band" against "The Community Band of Montgomery Village," and devised its logo, designed by saxophonist Douglas Smink as a playful imitation of the MVF logo.
The Haba Era (1986 – 1999)
But once again the band nearly foundered. Mysteriously, attendance became irregular, morale declined, and eventually Ellie resigned. So it was in 1986 that after a reorganization spearheaded by flutist and sometimes cornetist Sue Bahr, the MVCB reemerged on a new tack and into a long and successful phase under the leadership of Joe Haba.
The Bowie Era (1999 – 2012)
On July 4, 1999, the baton was officially passed to the MVCB's new music director, Dr. Gordon Bowie, at the annual Montgomery Village Independence Day celebration. An accomplished musician, Gordon had been for many years the conductor of The Bangor Band, a traditional New England town band, performing continuously since its founding in 1859, and a band once led by the famous march composer, R.B. Hall. Gordon, in fact, received his Ph.D in Music Education from the University of Maine with a dissertation on "R. B. Hall and the Community Bands of Maine." Under Gordon’s rigorous leadership, during which he continually demanded the best from all of us, the MVCB grew in reputation and size, beginning each new season with a tradition of its own for excellence and community service.
The Wampler Era (2012 – )
In May of 2012, the members of the Montgomery Village Community Band elected Steven W. Wampler as our new music director. “Wamp,” as he likes to be called, has many years of experience in music education and in directing bands, and there is little doubt that over time he will put his own imprint on the MVCB.
--Recalled by Norm Berk (trumpet player) in 1999, with subsequent updates