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For the Joy of It

James T. Rohner | December 2010

    It is often said that music can give a lifetime of enjoyment, and several people I know have made this a reality. Much of the momentum in the second half of the 20th century can be attributed to the Allentown Band and John Paynter, who brought renewed enthusiasm to the community band movement.
    Himie Voxman is surely the reigning marathon champion and at age 98 is still playing first clarinet in the Iowa City Community Band. He is joined in the reed section by a much younger Steve West (West Music Co.), an equally enthusiastic participant.
    Another musician who keeps the music coming just for the joy of it is Jack Mercer of Ontario, California. He spent 45 years as a band director and finally retired in the mid-1980s. However, in 1985 a former student and local police chief approached him to lead a group of citizens in a new a community band. Of course with Jack involved, the band is still going strong and gives monthly concerts from October through July and fills the hall with an audience of 200-400. At the recent Veteran’s Day concert some 2,100 attended even though every concert is televised locally. An unexpected consequence of these broadcasts is the number of people who hear of and join as band members.
    With the recent death of Harvey Phillips, the ranks of active musicians lost an important leader. Some of his lifetime is detailed in the retrospective beginning on page 32. Those of us at The Instrumentalist learned during the 11 years he was a consultant to the magazine that he never had only one or two things going at a time. He was always busy, and his two-inch thick address book included the names of almost everyone of significance in the world of music. He could telephone Henry Mancini, Andre Previn, or Clark Terry, and they would take the call. He urged every tuba student at Indiana University to never be the second person to say hello to anyone they pass on campus. They became known as the friendliest students on campus. He believed the way to break into performing groups was to take lessons from and get to know some of the established players in that area rather than simply assaulting the gates in a new city. He told charming stories about music and musicians. One summer he was the junior member of the staff at the music camp in Gunnison, Colorado. A such it was his job to tend the nightly bonfire for faculty members. The tuba faculty that year was comprised of three good ones: William Bell, Arnold Jacobs, and of course Harvey Phillips.
    Music can be as enduring and joyful as we make it. Harvey often said that life is made up of three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch them happen, and the others who just wonder what has happened. Himie, Steve, Jack, and Harvey all belong in the first group.
– James T. Rohner, Publisher