COLONIE A school band is where millions discover their love of making music. But for those who don’t pursue that passion as a career, it can be a struggle to rediscover that sense of rhythmic community.
Enter the Colonie Town Band, an intergenerational group of local musicians who all share a combined passion for community and traditional music. As the band approaches its 50th anniversary next year, the roughly 70 musical connoisseurs are spending their summers and holiday seasons playing throughout the Capital District.
“It’s a great way to come together and focus on something together, and hopefully make some people happy through our music,” said saxophonist Dana Yanulavich.
A storied history
The Colonie Town Band was formed in 1964 by founder and then-director Mal Pappin. Sponsored by the Parks & Recreation Department of the Town of Colonie, the band performs roughly 20 free concerts annually at mostly Colonie community venues, including the Beltrone Living Center, The Crossings at Colonie, Cohoes Music Hall, the William K. Sanford Library and the Pruyn House.
Each performance involves an average of 55 players and audiences can range anywhere from 100 to 1,600 people, depending on the venue. The band prides itself on its open membership; anyone in the Capital District can join, regardless of age or talent level. Players often want to improve musically, Co-Director Jane Oppenlander said, but if a musician joins in who feels they’re not up to speed, they’ll leave the group or try to take private lessons.
The band is comprised of standard instrumentation, including clarinet, oboe, flute, saxophone, trombone and trumpet. Oppenlander said they are always interested in taking new members and aren’t currently recruiting any specific instruments.
“Sometimes with certain instruments, it’s feast or famine,” she said. “We’re always looking to balance it.”
During the holiday season, some musicians will put down their instruments and sing along. Each year, the band also awards the Frank Mooney Memorial Scholarship to a Colonie High School student in honor of Mooney, the band’s former vocalist who was also an English teacher in the South Colonie Central School District. The scholarship is awarded to a student who demonstrates excellence in vocal performance as well as English.