Band director Dale Cleland and his 72 member Lake Oswego Millennium Concert Band could have saved The Music Man‘s Professor Harold Hill and River City a lot of grief. If the Professor and his bumbling troubadours could have just caught their performance this Sunday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Lakeridge High School Auditorium at 1235 Overlook Drive, they would have picked up a few lessons from the pros.
- The think system doesn’t work. It’s practice, practice, practice. Unlike Hill’s band members, these folks come to the stage with years of experience under their belts. Maureen Van Dyke has been playing the clarinet since fifth grade. Nancy McIntire was a music teacher for 30 years. The quality of musicianship is what drew many of the members to the Millennium Band in the first place. Their commitment shows in the weekly rehearsals they attend every Sunday night.
- Play music people like. Sure “76 Trombones” was a hit. And that’s why Cleland always includes a couple Souza marches in every concert. But he likes to mix it up. “The thing that most people say to me and other members of the band, “Cleland explains, “is that, ‘we just love the variety of music you play.’” Cleland guarantees a mix for the upcoming concert that includes a variety of genres including two classical pieces, a flute duet, two Souza marches, a Dixieland number, and a newly released arrangement, See Rock City that combines jazz, funk and rock.
- The conductor needs to know his stuff. Unlike Hill, Cleland is the real deal. He served as a band director and music coordinator in the Lake Oswego School District before retiring in 1992. He must be doing something right. Although the band originally formed to entertain at the city of Lake Oswego’s Millennium Celebration in 1999, the members had so much fun they decided to keep it going. It has added about 20 members in that time and entertained to near-packed houses in the Lakeridge High School auditorium. And it has spawned four offshoot ensembles, two of which Cleland performs with: an 18 piece Dance Band playing the tunes of the swing era; a Brass Quintet; a Wind Quintet and a Clarinet Quartet.
- Make it fun. “It’s not uncommon for someone to come up to me and say that Sunday night rehearsal is the best part of his or her week,” Cleland explains. He tries to make it fun to ensure members keep coming back. The result? Members feel connected and enjoy the music as much as the camaraderie. “We’re like one big happy family,” explains McIntyre. For some, like husband and wife Maureen and Phil Van Dyke, being family is a literal thing. She plays the clarinet; he plays the trombone. “Sunday night rehearsals are like date night for us,” she explains, as grandparents watch their three kids so they can get away. Mike Wallmark’s daughter, Megan, joined the band a couple years after him. Now Sunday night rehearsals provide not only an opportunity for him to play the tuba but also for him to get together with his daughter.
- Pack them in. “It’s not that unusual for a community like ours to have a community band,” explains Cleland. “One of the things that is unusual is the big audiences we get,” which he estimates at close to 600. The expressions on the audience members’ faces is one of the things that McIntyre appreciates most. “It shows me I am bringing enjoyment of the arts to the people of the Portland area,” she explains.
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