Inaugural Harold J. Crosby Community Band Camp

Nestled along the shores of Lake Wassookeag in central Maine, Dexter is a quiet town, especially in autumn after the summer crowds have all gone home. The locals once again settle down and enjoy the quaintness of their hometown. But for one weekend this year, September 16, 17, & 18, that quietness was interrupted by the sounds of the Harold J. Crosby Community Band Camp.

This band camp was the brainchild of Carl R. Cuthbert (1910-2011), the founder of a community band foundation bearing his name. To honor him and his dedication to Community Bands in Maine, Dr. Earl R. Lord, the director of the HJ Crosby Community Band of Dexter, pushed forward to bring this dream to fruition, a process begun two years ago. That dream became reality in 2016 with the inaugural year of the Harold J. Crosby Community Band Camp.

Several committees worked hard to set up the under-pinning of the band camp, arranging practice space, securing lodging and meals, soliciting advertising, and bringing the camp together over the course of many months. One of the basic tenants of the camp was that no one would have to pay to attend this weekend; the community of Dexter rallied behind this effort and was instrumental in making it happen: lodging was found for everyone in attendance, participants were well fed by organizations donating their time and resources, and funds were raised through advertising and donations to meet all the financial needs of this endeavor. Two major corporate sponsors of the camp were the Maine Highlands Federal Credit Union, located throughout the region, and Vic Firth Percussion. So on Friday night, September 16, 2016, at the Ridge View School, the band sat down for its first rehearsal, those first notes playing out through the autumn magic that is Dexter, rural Maine at its best - quiet, quaint, and picturesque.

Invitations had been sent out nationwide through a variety of venues, to include the Journal of the Association of Concert Bands, as well as sending brochures to community bands throughout the state and the nation. And while the band was composed of mostly Maine musicians, among the 27 participants were a clarinetist from Somerville, MA, a drummer from Portsmouth, NH, a tuba player from Durham, NC, and two euphonium players from “away,” Liverpool, NY, and, the winner of the “Musician who Traveled the Furthest” award, Newcastle, OK. Despite the small size, the band’s instrumentation was diverse and fully covered the parts necessary for the selected music. With only four rehearsals spread over the three day camp, the band, under the direction of Dr. Lord, played a culminating performance on Sunday afternoon, a free public concert at the Ridge View School; the school had graciously donated its music room for the Camp’s use and its auditorium for the concert. This concert signaled not the end of the band camp itself, but rather the beginning of an annual tradition in Dexter, ME, the Harold J. Crosby Community Band Camp.

The goal of the band camp was to perform the music of Maine composers, specifically the band’s namesake and Dexter native, Harold J. Crosby, a contemporary of John Phillip Sousa. Also featured were composer Heywood S. Jones and arranger Ed Madden. The concert music included Crosby’s Welcome All, Old Friends, In a Rose Garden, and The Regiment’s Return; Jones’ Hot Sands and Four Rhythmic Dances; and Madden’s arrangement of Roger Snow’s State of Maine Song, long recognized as the official song of the State of Maine. The band also performed Stein Song, the fight song of the University of Maine at Orono (UMO), made famous away from the campus by one-time UMO student Rudy Vallee, a #1 hit in 1929.

“This is truly an exciting endeavor which will showcase the talent that abounds and the dedication of all the musicians,” exclaimed Dexter Town Manager Shelley L. Watson. No greater prediction was ever made when the H.J. Crosby Band first began planning for this band camp as musicianship, talent, and dedication were evident the entire weekend. And to build on the success of this inaugural year, the Harold J. Crosby Community Band of Dexter has already begun plans for the 2017 Harold J. Crosby Community Band Camp to be held again in September, 2017, on the shores of Lake Wassookeag, the perfect backdrop for a weekend of music, music ringing through the autumn magic that is Dexter.