Quincy Concert Band would like to introduce you to its president John Schneider. Here is a Q & A, submitted by Susan Deege.
You have been serving as the President of the Quincy Concert Band for a couple of years. What motivated you to get involved beyond being a musician? I have been performing with the Quincy Concert Band for 16 years, and I have always thought that our band was a hidden gem in our community, with a loyal audience. I wanted to see what we could do to expand our reach and make more people aware of the fabulous free concerts the band performs twice each year. We have long been confused with the Quincy Park Band (which is a separate organization) and many people often presume that our concerts are traditional community band fare like show tunes and marches. In reality, we are performing elaborate and challenging symphonic works, and many weeks of rehearsal go into each concert. We have won awards on a national level for the quality of our performances. As the QCB president, I have worked to improve our visibility in the community, improve our organizational structure, and enhance our financial base. Fortunately, I am enjoying the support of a great board of directors and so I believe we are succeeding on all levels.
When did you start playing the trombone? Do you play any other instruments? When I was eleven, my family moved into a house where the previous owners had left behind an old upright piano. I started tinkering on the piano, which encouraged my parents to invest in piano lessons. I then also began playing the trombone when I was in junior high school. I belonged to the school band and a drum and bugle corps during my high school years.
I don't play the piano much anymore, but I really do enjoy making music with my friends on the trombone. Actually, I think both instruments were important to my development. Nothing teaches you basic music and chord theory as well as a piano, but it's mostly a solo instrument. On the other hand, playing in a band or orchestra teaches you collaboration and teamwork. In a 70-piece concert band, no one is a star.
With what other groups do you play? Locally, I have played with the Quincy Park Band and the Big River Swing Machine, and also led a group called the Dixie Dads until we disbanded last year. This past winter, I enjoyed playing Christmas music with Band on a Bus, a new brass band in collaboration between Arts Quincy and the Salvation Army. Additionally, I spend a lot of time in Michigan during the summer, where I play at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, with the Holland Legion Band and also with a German band called Ein Prosit. I also love to play traditional Dixieland music and I have made many trips to New Orleans to play at a jazz camp there.
You have combined your love of playing music with travel. What are some of your most memorable music experiences during your travels? I made three trips to Europe to perform with the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp International Adult Band, playing in France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy. Our performances were always enthusiastically received by local audiences and we stayed in the homes of musicians from the community bands that sponsored our visits. My most memorable performances were playing beneath the statue of Michelangelo's "David" in the main piazza in Florence, and performing in front of the national palace in Brussels. But I think my greatest memories are of friendships with our host families. I still keep in touch with several people there!
Who has influenced you musically? Is your family musical? My immediate family was not musical. My greatest mentors have been Quincy trombonist Bob Havens; Trent Hollinger, the Quincy Concert Band's talented conductor; and the amazing professional jazz musicians who are instructors at the New Orleans Traditional Jazz Camp.
What advice would you give a person thinking about pulling his or her instrument out of the closet after a long break? They need to be patient, and allow their skills to come back slowly. It will take time. I stopped playing the trombone after college because there was no place to perform and life got in the way. After I moved from the West Coast to Quincy (which is an amazing musical town) I was encouraged by a friend to start playing again, and she even lent me a trombone. When I joined the Concert Band, my first reaction was that it was so far beyond my skill level that I couldn't do it. But I stuck with it, improved little by little, and have since gone far beyond my college years in my skill set and musical knowledge. The Quincy Concert Band does not hold auditions, and any adult who wants to play is welcome. That opportunity doesn't exist in most communities, and so local residents should take advantage of it if they're interested!
Other than playing, what are some other ways that people can get involved with QCB? Fundraising is a continuous challenge. It costs about $13,000 a year to operate the band, and this is entirely funded by community donations and fundraising events. We do not charge admission to any of our concerts and there is no cost to the musicians for performing, so all our revenue must come voluntarily from the community. Fortunately, band members are stepping up to help when needed. But we would also welcome any non-musicians who want to become a volunteer for our fundraising events, or can offer special skill sets such as legal, accounting, publicity or website development.
Are there any changes in the works for the Quincy Concert Band? Yes, we are looking towards growth and expansion. Since its formation in 1982, the band has performed only two concerts a year. We are now talking about giving additional concerts in nearby communities, and of forming smaller ensembles drawn from our musicians that can perform a variety of musical styles at smaller public and private events. We have already entertained at a few events with low brass and woodwind ensembles, and we hope to make this a regular activity!