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Sumter community band seeks musicians

Group begins 37th season

Features Contributor
Posted 8/28/19

When the Sumter Community Concert Band has its first practice of the 2019-20 season Thursday night, the musicians will be celebrating the organization's 37th year. Several members, among them Rick Mitchum, Barbara Rearden, Paul Booth, Joni Brown, …

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Sumter community band seeks musicians

Group begins 37th season


When the Sumter Community Concert Band has its first practice of the 2019-20 season Thursday night, the musicians will be celebrating the organization's 37th year. Several members, among them Rick Mitchum, Barbara Rearden, Paul Booth, Joni Brown, Emmett Anglin, Bob Lee and others, have been in the SCCB since its origin in 1982.

Rearden, who plays flute in the band, recalled that several of them had been playing with the Camden community band since it started in 1981.

"Some of us thought 'Why can't we have a community concert band in Sumter?'" she said.

They got together and modeled their bylaws and procedures after the Camden band's, Rearden said. SCCB founders listed four major purposes, which are still followed today. They are:

- To provide an opportunity for individual musical expression and growth among its members through the rehearsal and performance of band literature;

- To contribute positively to the musical environment of the area it serves;

- To provide an opportunity for contact among qualified musicians; and

- To reaffirm the community concert band position in American music.

"We had about 60 in that first band," Rearden said. "Our first concert was at the Sumter Opera House. We were the first group to open the Sumter Opera House."

SCCB was also the first concert band to play Patriot Hall after its remodeling, and they've been "going strong ever since," Rearden said. "Several of us still play in the Camden band, too." Patriot Hall is the band's home location; however, it has played in several other venues, including Sumter High School, Bates Middle School, Swan Lake-Iris Gardens, USC Sumter's Nettles-Schwartz Auditorium, Shaw Air Force Base and others.

Rick Mitchum, SCCB spokesman and trumpet player, said Mark Fisher was the first conductor. Over its 37 years, the band has had seven conductors. Pat Veltre served three non-consecutive terms, and current conductor James H. "Jim" Mills is the longest-serving leader, having conducted the band since 2004.

Among the band's current 40 to 45 members are teachers, military personnel from Shaw Air Force Base, lawyers, doctors, homemakers, farmers, pilots and college students; several are school band directors. Mitchum said members must be at least 18 years old, have experience in a middle or high school band and able to read music. There is no audition. Prospective members should attend a rehearsal in order to register. Dues are $15 a year, which helps defray the cost of sheet music.

A nonprofit organization, SCCB receives partial funding in the form of a matching grant from the S.C. Arts Commission, which in turn receives funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. The band also belongs to the Association of Concert Bands.

SCCB's season runs from late August to late May. Rehearsals are on Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. at Patriot Hall, 135 Haynsworth St., in the Pat Veltre band room (enter from Mood Avenue door).

Mitchum urges interested musicians to register this Thursday, although they may register any Thursday during the band's season. He said,"Dust off your old instrument, if you have one, and come play with us."

For more information about the band, call him at (803) 775-9265.

About the conductor

Conductor James Mills selects the music for the band's four concerts a year and drives from his home in Chapin once a week for the 7-to-9 p.m. Thursday rehearsals at Patriot Hall. He graduated from Sumter (Edmunds) High School and received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in Music Education from the University of South Carolina.

He served as director of bands at Chapin middle and high schools for 25 years, and his marching bands received superior ratings consistently and finished in the top five 22 times. Mills' bands won the state championship twice and were in demand in prestigious venues around the country and in Europe, including two times in the Lord Mayor of Westminster's New Year's Eve parade in London. The CHS symphonic played festivals in Atlanta, Nashville, St. Louis, Philadelphia, the Festival of Champions in Panama City, Florida. and numerous other competitions. Mills' symphonic band also took "Best-In-Class" honors at the Toronto, Canada, music festival, receiving the Festival Grand Championship Award.

After retiring, Mills taught for four years at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School and now serves as educational representative for Star Music Company's three locations in Columbia. He also is active as an adjudicator and clinician.

Mills is a member of Music Educators National Conference, the South Carolina Band Directors Association, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the S.C. Music Educators Association and is past president of the S.C. chapter of Phi Beta Mu National Bandmasters Fraternity. He is listed in "Who's Who Among American Educators" and "Who's Who in America." Other professional honors include the National Band Association's "Citation of Excellence" and the Sertoma "Service to Mankind" award. He was elected to the SCBDA Hall of Fame and to the Phi Beta Mu Hall of Fame.

Past SCCB conductors

1982-84 - Mark Fisher

1984-88 - Joni Mabry Brown

1988-94, 1998-2000 & 2002-03 - Pat Veltre

1995-1997 - Randy Oswalt

2000-02 - Heath Jones

2003-04 - Brandon Vaughn

2004-present - James Mills