April 4, 2013

Performers graduate from music ‘rehab’

Community band gets long-awaited first show

By Christopher Smith

— “Rehab” can be filled with long nights, uncertainty and self-doubt.

“But rehab is possible,” said Mickey Fisher, an adjunct professor of woodwind instruments at Berry College and a longtime band director at Dalton Public Schools.

He might be the guy to know because Fisher has helped bring 50 people through a six-month rehab at the Northwest Whitfield High School band room. Music rehab, that is.

Fisher said he spearheaded the Dalton/Whitfield Community Band with Northwest band director Smitty Barnett and Dalton State College professor Ellie Jenkins on the premise that “people would come ... even if they hadn’t played in a long time.”

After several months, the community band of flutes, tubas, drums and more has graduated music rehab and is preparing for its first concert in Northwest’s auditorium on Monday, April 15, at 7 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public.

Fisher said Timothy Daniel is probably the best success story of someone “who thought they were a music has-been.”

“I haven’t played since 1974,” Daniel said. “When I first picked up my clarinet it felt strange, but exciting. Being in the band ... I’m enjoying it very much. I’m very much excited about the concert.”

Joel Fehd of Tunnel Hill says he’s another example.

“I had set playing flute aside after my stepdaughter took it up,” he said. “She started playing it one day and I thought, ‘She plays so well, I’m not even going to compete.’ I was in a restaurant around here somewhere and Smitty asked me to join the group. So I drove all the way to Gadsden (Ala.) in January and got my flute fixed up and got back into the swing of things. It’s been fun ... this is just like playing back in high school for me.”

That’s music of another kind to Fisher’s ears.

“We have a lot of people who have considered themselves out of the music thing,” he said. “But when they come here ... they start getting back into it and they’re finding out they still can play ... and they are really enjoying themselves.”

Jenkins expects people who come to the concert to enjoy themselves, too.

“We’ve set this as our big first hurdle — to get one concert,” she said. “We’re still in that building phase. It took a lot to just get the first concert date ... I would expect another concert shortly after, but we’re still growing. We still need more players ... especially people who can play clarinets, saxophones, oboe and bassoons and double reeds.

“For those we have ... we’ve turned into a real ensemble ... we’re hearing a flute section rather than just eight flutes playing the same song. It’s really coming together. The music is starting to speak.”

What can the public expect from the concert?

“It’s a real mixture of things,” Jenkins said. “One of the pieces people will know right away is ‘The Flower Duet.’ Everyone has heard it even if they don’t recognize the name because it shows up in television commercials and movies all the time.

“We’re also playing some Bosnian folk songs which are European in flavor. Rhenish folk songs ... German-flavored with polka and waltz movements. We’re playing a couple of marches as well ... People can finish their taxes and come out and celebrate with us.”