PRC Community Band looking for new members

Published 7:00 am Friday, March 11, 2016

For about eight years the Pearl River County Community Band has provided local musicians with a structured outlet to perform concert music together.
Formed in 2008 by former Picayune High School Band Director Johnny Baker, the club provides people from all over an opportunity to enjoy and play music, something Baker feels is important.
“A lot of people don’t realize how good music is for the brain,” Baker said.
At one time, there were about 80 members in the band. Now, due to family responsibilities, illness and some members moving away, the ranks are now at about 40.
That loss of membership leaves Baker worried about instrumentation for the club. Previously the band had five trombone players, but there are only two left. Additionally, two clarinetists had to drop out due to responsibilities at home, while two flutists players no longer able to perform due to hand dexterity problems.
When the group started, they held outdoor concerts at Jack Read Park, but the wind created issues.
Since then, the club has found a better venue with the Picayune School District’s auditorium on Goodyear Boulevard, which provides shelter from the wind. Generally, the club holds three concerts a year; their next is scheduled for May.
The band is funded by membershipdues, private donations and proceeds from the concerts they hold annually. Dues are $20 per year. And, Baker said, he is appreciative of the donations provided by community members, including Picayune Mayor Ed Pinero, Pearl River County Supervisor Hudson Holliday and Bill Stegal to name a few.
That money is not only used to keep the band going, but each year the club provides a $500 scholarship to a high school or college student participating in a school band.
Being a community band, the club accepts members of all ages. Baker said the youngest member is in seventh grade and the oldest is in their 80s.
Baker’s history as a band director began in 1971 when he took over at Picayune Memorial High School. He said he was the first band director at Picayune Memorial High School to bring home all superiors at state contests. He left the job in 1978 to open a jewelry store and then became a diamond salesman for a company out of New York.
Then in 2008, while attending a ball game in Picayune, some former students approached him about starting a community band. Baker said that at that time 75 people committed to joining. The rest is history.
Now recruitment is done by word of mouth. Prospective new members are typically referred to Baker by a current member.
“I’ve never had a bad one come in,” Baker said.
Practice is held one night a week at the First United Methodist Church in Picayune.
“The church has been so gracious,” Baker said. “They let us practice there and give us a room to store all our equipment. They don’t charge us a dime.”
Community band is not the only musical endeavor Baker is involved in. He also tutors students and at times helps with rehearsals at other school bands, such as Pearl River Central, Poplarville and Hancock.
“I’m back doing what I never should have quit doing,” Baker said.
Anyone interested in joining the community band can contact Baker at 601-798-4999.

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