Harold J. Crosby Community Band:

A Brief History

by Richard C. Wing

In 2009, at the request of Carl Cuthbert of Dexter, Maine, a small band was formed of volunteer musicians for Western Days, a local festival. Carl had played with this band’s predecessor, the Faye Scott Band, following WWII, but like many small town bands, the band had dissolved. Concerned about this lack of a town band, Carl put out the word and a handful of musicians responded. After the Festival’s concert, the volunteers just stayed together, gathering momentum and musicians and began playing for other local functions; the Dexter Community Band soon became the reality Carl had envisioned, a community band back in Dexter.

Under the direction of Dr. Earl Lord, the band continued to attract musicians and soon grew to an average size of 25-30 players of all levels of musicians, from seasoned “old-timers” to locals who dusted off instruments pushed to the back of their closets to folks who just wanted to join the band, having never played before. Instruments and lessons were provided, and no one is turned away. Besides a busy summer program throughout the region with outdoor concerts and festival appearances, the band performs a Holiday Concert and a spring cabaret concert.

As the bands notoriety grew beyond the state of Maine, the band discovered they shared their name with a Dexter Community Band in Michigan; this was a problem, for both bands. In 2014, the Dexter (Maine) Community Band voted to change its name to the Harold J. Crosby Community Band, to avoid some of the confusion with the Michigan band and to honor Harold Josiah Crosby (1886-1920), a composer of regimental marches during WWI and a contemporary of John Philip Sousa, born and raised in our little village, Dexter, Maine.

Although Carl Cuthbert passed away in 2011 at 101 years old, his legacy continues in the Harold J. Crosby Community Band. Following his death, the Carl R. Cuthbert Community Band Foundation was formed with a mission “to promote music education and training with performance opportunities for any ages at any stage of musical experience or competence,” the Foundation gives it support not only to the Crosby Band, but other local community bands and musical groups. This 501 c(3) non-profit provides funds, instruments, instruction, and music wherever there is a need. It was important to Carl to continue community bands in the small towns of Maine, and the Foundation is doing its part to keep community bands alive and playing in the local communities, a long tradition in many small towns throughout the USA.

Carl also dreamed of one day starting a community band camp, a yearly camp where musicians could come together and play. What he envisioned was a collective of musicians coming together to play the music of Maine composers and arrangers, to include Dexter’s own Harold J. Crosby; Heywood S. Jones, band director and composer of novelty pieces, songs that honor Maine, and music for the Shrine Bands; Frank Church who composed for Walt Disney Studios, best known for the score of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves; and other Maine composers and arrangers.

His vision came to fruition in 2016 when the first Harold J. Crosby Community Band Camp convened in September 16-18, “on the shores of Lake Wassookeag” in Dexter, Maine. This inaugural band consisted of 27 musicians, mostly local, but a few from “away,” as we say in Maine, from New York, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Oklahoma. The program of Maine composers and arrangers consisted of pieces by Crosby and Jones, The State of Maine Song, and the University of Maine Fight Song, The Stein Song, under the direction of the Harold J Crosby Band’s conductor, Dr. Earl Lord.

This success was followed up by a second band camp the following year. That year, the band added a guest conductor, Edward J. Madden, the arrangers of Maine’s official song, The State of Maine Song. The 2017 Crosby Band Camp increased its numbers to 35, to include local musicians from across the state and across the nation. Many of the players had attended the previous year and wanted to continue the tradition of celebrating Maine composers and arrangers. As in the previous year, there was no charge for the band camp, with all meals provided by donations from the local community: good food, good friends, good music.

Another successful band camp fueled the third year, Band Camp 2018. The guest conductor for this camp was Dr. Christian Wilhjelm, Conductor and Music Director of the Ridgewood (NJ) Concert, widely recognized as one of the leading wind orchestra in the United States. An accomplished musician, he performed with the band’s accompaniment a French Horn solo, Le Basque. The twenty-eight musicians who comprised this year’s band camp were thrilled by the opportunity to play with and under Dr. Wilhjelm who patiently guided the band through a variety of challenging pieces. Band Camp members left having learned valuable skills to take back with them to their respective bands.

Now, with winter nearly over and spring a few weeks away, the Carl R. Cuthbert Community Band Foundation is starting to get ready for Band Camp 2019, scheduled this year for September 13-15, in Dexter, ME. The Foundations board has already selected this year’s guest conductor, Master Sergeant Sam Woodhead, Principle trombonist of the United States Army Concert Band, Pershing’s Own, Washington DC. MSG Woodhead hails from Northport, Maine, with a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Southern Maine, a Master’s from Yale University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. Beside playing with the Army band, he is also chairman of the Eastern Trombone Workshop, founder and director of the Washington Trombone Ensemble, and is currently serving on the board of advisors for the International Trombone Association. His background and various experiences as a musician will make him a valuable asset to this year’s band camp program, Band Camp 2019.

As has been the custom of the previous band camps, band members from across the state and the nation will convene again “on the shores of Lake Wassookeag” to celebrate the music of Maine composers and arrangers under the direction of MSG Sam Woodhead and Dr. Earl Lord. This year’s camp will continue to be at no cost, except lodging, to anyone wishing to attend, with all meals, music, and facilities provided by civic groups and private donations from the community and the Cuthbert Foundation. For more information or to register for Band Camp 2019, you may visit the Foundation’s website at cuthbert-foundation.org.

The Carl R. Cuthbert Community Band Foundation is extending an invitation to all adult musicians, regardless of ages or musical experience or competence, to join the Harold J Crosby Community Band and Band Camp 2019 in Dexter, Maine, “rural Maine at its best, quiet, quaint, and picturesque, the perfect backdrop for a weekend of music” to celebrate once again the season and the music of Maine.