Local musicians prepare for public performances

Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Pearl River County Community Band held its first rehearsal of the season Tuesday. The band sight read patriotic pieces for a Veterans tribute concert in November.

The community band began in 2008, under the direction of Johnny Baker.

“Mr. Baker was a very dynamic individual, and he inspired his students’ love of music over the years, and I think that that has kind of carried through the community,” said current band director Archie Rawls.

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Unfortunately, Baker passed away in 2016, but the band still provides a Johnny Baker Memorial Scholarship to help graduating high school band members. Of the students who received the scholarship in 2017, one is studying music at the University of Southern Mississippi and another is studying nursing at PRCC, Rawls said.

Members of the Community Band range in age from 15 to 85, and while the majority of players are from Picayune or Poplarville, some musicians travel from Diamondhead or Bogalusa, La. to attend rehearsals.

The community band will be joining forces with the City of Hattiesburg Concert Band for their first concert in November, Rawls said. The bands will perform together at the Saenger Theatre in Hattiesburg on Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. Then they will bring their music to the Brownstone Center in Poplarville on Nov. 10. This is the first time the two bands have collaborated.

The assistant director for the Hattiesburg band, Dr. Kyle Hill, worked with Rawls at Pearl River Community College for over 20 years, so Hill has a connection to both Rawls and the Pearl River County community, Rawls said. Hill’s connection to the area and experience working with Rawls is how the two bands came together.

Now is a great time for new members to join the band, because the group has been off for the summer, said Rawls.

“Even if someone hasn’t played in many years, it’s been my experience that most of them remember quickly and easily get back in shape to play,” Rawls said.

The group welcomes musicians with their own instruments who have at least two years of playing experience, Rawls said. Anyone interested in joining the band can contact Rawls at archierawls@att.net, or 601-310-6758, or they can go to the band’s Facebook page.

Concerts are always free to the public, although donations are encouraged. The band has received some funding to pay for equipment and sheet music through a sustaining funds grant from the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation, Rawls said.

Rawls said the band is very grateful for the broad community support it has received, including Picayune United Methodist Church for allowing the band to use the facilities for rehearsals and equipment storage. He also appreciates the Picayune Civic Women’s Club, which will help with hosting duties at performances in the upcoming year. All of the school band directors in the county have supported the community band as well, Rawls said, from encouraging students to participate to lending the band percussion equipment for a performance.

“Picayune, Poplarville and Pearl River Central have had strong band programs over the years that have instilled that love of music in the players,” Rawls said.

Each participant’s love of performing music and the camaraderie that comes with being part of a band is what brings musicians to the group, Rawls said. The band’s next rehearsal will be September 24 from 7 to 9 p.m.