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Community Band Gives Back To Music At PCS

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POTSDAM - Members of the Potsdam Community Band say they're appreciative of the gift of music they received as students at Potsdam Central School, and now they want to give back to the district.

Ronald E. Berry and Laurel Kuxhaus from the Potsdam Community Band, along with Theresa Witmer, who directs the Potsdam Community Band and high school band, presented a $500 check to Superintendent Patrick H. Brady and School Board President Ralph L. Fuller during Tuesday's board meeting.

The money, Mr. Berry said, will be used to make Potsdam Central a member of a consortium that supports a commissioning project by American composer Michael Colgrass.

The New York State Band Directors Association has commissioned a new work for concert band, which will be written by Mr. Colgrass. Each participating school that wants to join the consortium must contribute $500.

"As a member of the consortium, the name of Potsdam High School will be engraved on the published manuscript, forever memorializing Potsdam High as a strong supporter of music in the schools, and the school will receive a complete score and band set for its music library," Mr. Barry told school board members.

The Potsdam Community Band was resurrected by Ms. Witmer, Mr. Berry and Ms. Kuxhaus this year for the first time since the band died out in the late 1970s. It's comprised of musicians of all ages and abilities.

"Our band's debut performance of the millennium was on July 10th at Potsdam's Summer Festival," Mr. Berry, a retired civil engineer, told school board members.

He noted there were 84 musicians who drew an audience of several hundred spectators in Ives Park, "much to the disappointment of the group performing on Market Street Main Stage at the same time."

Their second concert, which was held earlier in September on the Potsdam High School lawn, drew about 75 band members and more than 150 audience members.

Mr. Berry said they wouldn't be where they are now without the help of the Potsdam Central School District.

"None of this would have been possible without the generosity of the Potsdam Central Schools. Under the direction of Potsdam High School Band Director Theresa Witmer, our band rehearsed in the high school band room and used much of the music equipment owned by the school," he said.

But the school's impact on their lives goes back much farther, according to Mr. Berry.

"Virtually all of us in the Potsdam Community Band were given the gift of music by our parents, usually by allowing us to sign up for instrumental lessons back in fourth grade, and that gift was nurtured and guided in the public school system by dedicated music educators," he said.

While some continued playing through college and beyond, he said others "put our horns aside after high school or college, to pursue careers outside of music and/or to raise families, and then we reconnected with music later in life, in some cases, when we saw our band's initial call for musicians.

"However it is that we got to this place, we all share in common the love of making music, and we appreciate the help that music educators gave us on our journey," Mr. Berry said.

The $500 donation was a way to show their support for the Potsdam Central School District's impact on music in their lives, he said.

"This project may have been difficult for the Potsdam High School system to justify financially, in view of the recent budget and personnel cuts to the music department," Mr. Berry said.

"Therefore, it is with great pleasure that the Potsdam Community Band now presents to Potsdam High School a gift of music, along with our check for $500, collected from our band members and the very generous audience at the Summer Festival, to enable Potsdam's participation in the commissioning project," he noted.

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