To John Schoepflin, a person’s age is no business of his – and that certainly applies to those in the Chester Wind Symphony which he conducts: “Yeah, I’ve got some grandmas.”
But plenty of high-schoolers comprise the group’s 50 or so members as well.
According to Schoepflin, a band teacher at Elizabeth Davis Middle School, its number of group members tends to fluctuate due to the open coming and going of people in the community. Not geared toward making profit or even competition, the local wind symphony simply aims to get community members “back playing again,” he said.
As the group includes an assortment of wind instruments (woodwinds, brass, percussion, etc.), it draws numerous people who haven’t played in years; some have gone as much as 40 years without playing an instrument before they joined. According to Schoepflin, that’s kind of the idea.
He created the group in 2006, and first deemed it “The Carver Community Band,” a traditional, concert band from our community and for our community.
“One of the main reasons I wanted to start it was so that my own kids could have an outlet in the community to play their instruments and to offer something to the members of the community,” he said.
Most of the original 25 members were high school students, most of which he had once taught at Carver Middle School. Not a “band for hire,” the symphony plays three shows a year free of charge and does not cost members anything to join. A majority of the group’s more recent shows have been performed at Elizabeth Davis Middle, the site of their weekly Monday rehearsals.
Also, the Chester Wind Symphony (CWS) works in a unique way, in that many of its adults, Schoepflin said, mentor the youth wanting to explore different instruments, styles and genres. The group also awards a few scholarships each year to rising local college freshman.
Trumpet player Rebecca Morissette, 19, joined the group in 2006, when she was a sophomore at Thomas Dale High School, to continue playing music and to get experience with other musicians. A member of the VCU’s Basketball Pep Band which traveled with the team to the NCAA Final Four tournament last March, she has only missed one CWS concert in four and half years.
“I enjoy it, I’ve always enjoyed it,” she said. “It’s something to try; if you play an instrument, it’s definitely worthwhile – even if you haven’t played in a while. It’s a good skill to have … and a nice way to keep in touch with people.”
What she enjoys most about her membership in the group, she said, is playing with different people and different skill levels.
Last winter, the CWS teamed up with the Chester Community Chorus (CCC) to perform “Sounds of the Season” in mid-December for a Christmas special. That particular show was performed for a few hundred people.
Like Schoepflin, Josh Wortham, CCC’s director, believes in both the role and the power of community musical groups.
“The Chester Wind Symphony always gives a strong, musically respectable performance,” Wortham said. “It’s a team of players of all spectrums of ability and skill working together to create the best possible performance.”
The CWS will be performing at the Chesterfield County Fair Saturday, Sept. 3, playing a variety of styles. They will have roughly 45 minutes of stage time, delivering six pieces, and will be playing promptly at 1:30 that afternoon.
“The fair’s a great outing – and you can’t beat the price,” Schoepflin said. “It’s nice to go around and see what people in your community are doing and meet some people.”
More information on the group can be found at www.chesterwinds.org. CWS welcomes musicians wanting to join in the community wind symphony.