Encore Concert Band member Greg Benson of LaPorte, ...
October 17, 2013
They come from a variety of musical backgrounds, from degrees in music performance to amateur musicians who have never had a lesson, but they all have one thing in common — a love of music.
Members of the Encore Concert Band, which was founded by Orland Park resident Bill Schuetter and today rehearses in Mokena, are preparing to celebrate the band's 15th anniversary this concert season.
The band started out in 1999 in Orland Park with roughly 20 members and has blossomed to more than 50 members. The band holds four major concerts each year, in addition to performances at community festivals and events throughout the suburbs.
"I never thought we would make it this far," Schuetter said. "I didn't know what was involved in setting up a band."
Schuetter said he was looking to fill a void for adult musicians.
"We tell people to practice in grade school and high school, and then the instrument goes in the closet," said Schuetter, who has a degree in music from DePaul. "There's a whole lot of people who played and really enjoyed it. They like making music. I think one of the reasons why we're successful is we emphasize the social aspects. We encourage people to get to know each other.
"People enjoy coming to band. There are rare times we cancel rehearsal because of weather. People are so used to going to band on Thursdays."
Schuetter said that band members' ages have ranged from as young as fourth grade to senior citizens in their 70s.
"We have people who have doctorates in music and some who have never had a private lesson in their life," he said. "It's people who like to play their instrument."
Liz Neven, who is an original member from Chicago, said she had read an article in the newspaper about the band and decided to check out a practice.
"It's not just the music," said Neven, a clarinet player. "Even though music is the main reason, they become almost like a second family. We're a very close-knit group. New members come and go, but there's a core group of about 25 of us still there."
After years of being the band's unofficial "roadie" for help in setting up at concerts, Neven's husband, David, joined the band this year. He plays in the percussion section.
"For years, I would go off to rehearsal by myself and come back all chatty," Neven said. "Now we can have those conversations together. It's pretty cool."
Orland Park resident Jackie Isely has been a member for three-and-a-half years. With a degree in music education, Isely admitted it had been awhile since she had picked up her flute, as she was busy raising her daughter.
"I was finally able to do something for myself," she said. "I was looking online at local community bands and went to a concert to scope them out."
That concert, along with Schuetter's conducting, made up Isely's mind to join.
"He was really charismatic and knows how to draw a crowd in," she said.
As for the type of music they play, the band performs everything from classical and swing to show tunes and modern pieces.
"Audiences like to hear tunes they recognize, ones they go home whistling," Schuetter said. "You have to play to your audience."
At 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, the band is to hold its fall concert. The performance features music from "Les Miserables" and "The Wizard of Oz," in addition to pieces that highlight the trumpet, clarinet and saxophone sections. Guest conductors will also direct a handful of pieces at the concert.
"There are a wealth of people in the band who have a music background," Schuetter said. "If somebody has the ability to conduct, we invite them to do it."
It is also Schuetter's openness to work with the band members that is giving Isely an opportunity to conduct a piece at the upcoming concert. After hearing her daughter's symphonic band play it at Sandburg, Isely knew "Dusk" by Steven Bryant would be a good song for the band to perform. Between those types of opportunities and the people in the band, Isely couldn't be happier.
"I enjoy the camaraderie and the music that we make," she said. "No one has to be there. People want to do it for themselves because they have a love of music."
Neven said she is excited for the clarinet section to perform "Clarinet Candy" at the concert.
"It's a difficult piece, but it gives us a chance to show off a little bit," she said. "We don't always get to do pieces as a section."
The clarinet player joined the band when she was living in Orland Park, and said she knows of other bands that are closer to her Chicago home.
"It's the people that keep you coming back," she said. "I just can't leave the people."
The Encore Concert Band practices from 7-9 p.m. Thursdays at Mokena Junior High, 19815 Kirkstone Way in Mokena.
"We invite people to come in and sit in with us," Schuetter said. "They will know by intermission if they can keep up with us and usually about 95 percent can."
For more information on the band, contact Rachel Ozark at (708) 437-7051, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.encoreband.org.
Encore Concert Band — Fall Concert
3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20
Mokena Junior High School, 19815 Kirkstone Way
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