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June 12, 2018 > Will the band play on?

Will the band play on?

By David R. Newman

For over 60 years, the Hayward Municipal Band has performed free summer concerts for residents, spreading joy and happiness as only music can. But this may be coming to an end soon. At an April 17, 2018 meeting of the Hayward City Council, councilmembers voted unanimously to approve a budget that leaves the band $6,000 short for 2018, and places serious doubt on its future.

Part of the problem lies in the way the City currently handles funding for art programs, which are now lumped together with other community services in a competitive bidding process. Mayor Halliday may have voiced the feelings of everyone present at the meeting when she said, ÒHow can you compare funding for a shelter for women who are victims of violence, or food for children, or a roof over a familyÕs head, with funding for the arts?Ó

Julie Roche, Community Services Commission Vice Chair, later suggested that moving forward the council may want to consider removing the Hayward Municipal Band from the competitive process. For now, instead of the usual four summer concerts, the band is only slated for three, and they are scrambling to secure money for a fourth.

A community band has long been a symbol of the American way of life. Originally military in nature (one of the first was the United States Marine Band, established in 1798), it wasnÕt long before many cities and towns across our nation boasted a band, which often played at celebrations and marched in parades. There are several community bands in the East Bay, including those in Oakland, Alameda, Pleasanton, Danville, Castro Valley, San Leandro, Fremont, and Milpitas.

The Hayward Municipal Band was formed in 1957 by two city employees: Ed Mendonca and Tony Nunes. Tony Morelli, a music teacher and director of the Castro Valley Community Band, became the director in 1960, and would go on to lead the band for the next 38 years. When he died in 1998, the baton passed to his daughter, Kathy Maier, who has been conducting ever since. ÒMy dad was a terrific conductor and a fantastic leader. I learned everything by watching him.Ó

MorelliÕs wife, Lolita, manages the band, acts as its spokesperson, and sings an occasional solo at performances. Music has been a way of life for her. Her other two children are also musicians, and the members of the band are like family. Says Morelli, ÒWe have some of the best musicians in the Bay Area. TheyÕre very loyal to us and to each other. They keep coming back.Ó Many band members have been with the group for over 30 years.

Morelli keeps all the music for the 40-piece band (39 musicians and 1 conductor Ð a standard number) in her garage. She estimates that they have over 600 arrangements, ranging from pop, big band, jazz, rock, Latin, musicals, and, of course, patriotic. Says Maier, ÒThe audience is very important to us, so we try to play a variety of music to appeal to everyone.Ó

The Hayward Municipal Band plays on Memorial Day at Lone Tree Cemetery. Then they traditionally start their summer season on FatherÕs Day, playing four free concerts in their powder blue uniforms at Memorial Park in Hayward, on a bandstand just behind The Plunge. Says Morelli, ÒFolks come for a picnic and to listen to us. ItÕs a wonderful atmosphere. Because itÕs outdoors, the children can play and run around without disturbing anyone. And it gives people a chance to hear music that they might not be able to afford elsewhere.Ó

This is where MorelliÕs three children grew up, playing and watching as their father conducted the band. They helped pass out programs and sometimes were asked to narrate. At age 14, Maier began practicing with the band. ÒIt was very intimidating,Ó she recalls. ÒThese people could sight read anything. I knew I needed to get to that level someday.Ó

About half of the bandÕs expenses are covered through donations. The Hayward Area Recreation and Park District (HARD) maintains the park and the stage, and helps promote the band in their mailings. Fairway Park Baptist Church provides year-round storage for their instruments as well as a space to rehearse. The band rehearses one time before each performance.

In an age where cell phones and iPads consume our attention, many fear the bandÕs days are numbered. Maier hopes otherwise. ÒListening to music in a park provides a link to the great past of our country, when people made time to be with friends and family outdoors.Ó

Hayward Municipal Band Concerts in the Park
Sundays, Jun 17, 24 & Jul 1
2:30 p.m.
Tony Morelli Bandstand, Memorial Park
24176 Mission Blvd, Hayward
(510) 569-8497

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