Raymond Community Band News


Community at the Heart of Raymond Band
By Leslie O’Donnell  7-17-18

If you heard the Raymond Community Band perform Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” at the Town Common during this year’s Fourth of July parade, you were a witness to a tangible display of town spirit.

The Community Band is like a New Hampshire summer – it makes only a brief appearance, but is heartily welcomed. The band performs only during the Fourth of July parade and doesn’t appear every year, but this year it brought together its largest contingent ever – 22 students, alumni and community members riding and playing songs on a 22-foot commercial flatbed trailer donated by Bradley Reed of I C Reed. He allows the band members to use his business location as well to turn the flatbed into a float complete with bunting and balloons.

The band is the brainchild of third-generation Raymond resident Kerry Pratt, its organizer and one of its musicians.

The Community Band previously performed at the 2011 and 2012 Fourth of July parades. “We need a certain number of instruments and number of people,” Pratt said, explaining the gap in performance in recent years. But this year he amassed the largest group ever.

The 2018 band was a good mix of participants and instruments, Pratt said, adding, “We had middle school and high school students, Raymond High alumni, and community members.” It featured six flutes, three clarinets, two saxophones, four trumpets, a slide trombone, a tuba, two baritones, a snare drum, a bass drum and cymbals.

“The weather certainly was hot enough but it was not too humid,” Pratt said. “We had water, and everyone was really psyched.”

Every year at the Raymond High School POPS concert rehearsals - the initials stand for the Parents Of Performing Students music boosters, as well as the type of music performed - Pratt brings a sign-up sheet for the Community Band. Many of the Community Band members, including Pratt, play in the POPS concert as well, and if he gets lots of interest from the POPS participants, he will call performers from previous years to see if they will be available July 4 to fill out the band.

The POPS concert is another opportunity for Raymond musicians to be part of the larger community. It’s put on by Raymond High School music teacher Randy LaCasse, and is a chance for community and alumni musicians to perform alongside the RHS band and choir.

“It’s a chance for people like me to dig out our instruments,” Pratt said. “After I graduated from high school, my trumpet just sat there. Then about 17 years ago, Randy decided to do the POPS concert, and it’s grown every year. Many of the same people play in the POPS concert and the Community Band – people come back to play as community members or alumni.”

LaCasse said he organizes some of the music and represents the school with the Community Band, but gives all the credit to Pratt. “Any time it runs, we always have a ton of fun,” he said.

“When the community supports our school budget, we’re able to provide music for lots of Town events,” he said. ‘I help rehearse the band – it’s very loosely structured, not as intense as getting ready for a school concert. But the kids participate right along with the community.”

He explained that the POPS concert is part of the school year and involves all the RHS band and chorus members. “We invite the community members and alumni and parents to play along with us,” he said, noting some parents play right next to their children. “It gives the kids a chance to see that they can make music after high school. Playing an instrument in grades 5-12 doesn’t have to end at graduation. It sets up a community atmosphere. And I want kids to see that making music is a lifelong activity.”

LaCasse is proud to note that when he began teaching at Raymond High in 2001, band had 12 to 15 participants; this year it’s projected to top 80 students, with over 40 more in the choir.

And the future looks even brighter, as Iber Holmes Gove Middle School music teacher Alicia Rockenhauser, who was named Outstanding Young Band Director of the Year by the New Hampshire Band Directors in 2018, will have more than 200 musicians. Students can start band classes in fifth grade, and LaCasse said there is discussion going on about moving that back to fourth grade.

This year, the Community Band halted in front of the Common and gave a 10-minute performance. Pratt explained that he had been involved with getting bands for the Raymond 250th parade, and instead of having them march past the Town Common, arranged for them to stop at the Common and play a set. He asked Pastor Ken Bosse of New Life Church, who organizes the Fourth of July parade, if he could do that with the Community Band this summer, and he agreed.

 

“We were the last float in the parade, and when we got to the Common, we stopped and played a 10-minute set, then gave out our balloons,” he said.

In addition to organizing the band’s appearance, Pratt plays trumpet in the group. The band played marching tunes as it traveled along Epping Street, before launching into the Greenwood song at the Common.

Pratt noted that LaCasse provides music direction and helps with practice for the Community Band and makes it possible for them to use the music room at the high school.

“Without Randy, the Community Band doesn’t happen,”
 Pratt said. “We rehearse two times, and usually Randy plays whatever instrument we’re short of – this year he played the alto sax.”

Music is a major part of Pratt’s life. He fell in love with the trumpet in the fourth grade, and continued with it throughout his years in Raymond schools, graduating with the class of 1977.  Pratt, who retired last year from the U.S. Postal Service, also has played the bagpipes since 2000, and traveled with a group of bagpipers to Scotland and Switzerland to perform. His daughter, Tammy, played the trumpet throughout her years in Raymond schools, and plays the bagpipes as well.

“He’s just a wonderful community member, and is always looking for ways to make his hometown the best it can be,” LaCasse said.

The flatbed has room for 24 musicians, and the group’s composition changes each year as families move in and out of town or have other Fourth of July commitments. But Pratt intends to keep trying each year to get a Community Band ready for the parade. No special costumes are required – only red, white and blue attire. All that’s needed is interest in performing and proficiency in your instrument.

The Community Band is a great way to feel part of the town, both Pratt and LaCasse say. “Music helps students feel part of a team, connected to other kids with similar interests,” LaCasse said. “Music has come a long way in Raymond and hooks kids into caring about school.”

Dana Zulager is one of the Raymond parents who performed with this year’s Community Band. She described both the Community Band and the POPS concert as a lot of fun, and said that LaCasse is generous with his time in holding extra rehearsals. “The music students adore him,” she said, adding that music is the high point of the school day for some of them.

“In our small town, there is a real love for music (and the music teachers) in the schools, and all that it has done for the students and families,” Zulager concluded.

Next spring Pratt expects to be on the lookout once again for Community Band members. He can be reached at 867-3923.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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