The group photo for the inaugural Kalamazoo Valley Community College Campus Band shows a mere 20 musicians, plus director Chris Garrett. In the photo that was taken last month to mark the band’s tenth anniversary, the 61 members fill the stage.
“We’ve tripled in size,” said Garrett. “We are definitely filling a niche for the community. We have people who have spent years and years developing their talent and they know they can continue it here.”
Garrett came to Kalamazoo Valley from Glen Oaks Community College, where he was in charge of the music department. Prior to that, he served as the high school band director at two local high schools. KVCC’s Campus Band was in the planning stages when Garrett joined the faculty.
Today, the band includes Kalamazoo Valley students, Western Michigan University students, homeschooled students, and community members. About one quarter of the band members are community members who travel out to the college for the enjoyment of playing with the group. Garrett said membership spans from an occasional home-schooled high school student to community members in their 80s! “As a community college, we went to serve the community and we’re definitely doing that,” Garrett said.
Merle McCoy of Portage is one of the band’s charter members. The trumpet player had a 30-year-long break from playing before he joined the Campus Band. “Once you put your instrument away after high school, there’s really no outlet unless you go a church that encourages musical performances,” McCoy said.
He heard a musician play in church and it inspired him to get his trumpet out of the closet and to begin playing again. He practiced for a month or so and decided that he was ready to join a band. In addition to membership in the Campus Band, he serves as the President of the Kalamazoo Concert Band’s Board of Directors.
Vicksburg High School graduate Nick Thompkins plays the bass clarinet in the band. “I’ve always loved music,” he said. “It’s a stress reliever for me.” Thompkins played in his high school band for four years and is now enjoying being part of a band that includes musicians of all ages and abilities. “It’s nice to be in a band with people of different ages who care about music,” he said.
McCoy agrees. He said he finds the group’s performances energizing. "There’s nothing like making music with a group of other people,” McCoy said. “It’s joyful and up tempo. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. Everyone comes away exhilarated.”
The band’s rehearsals are held during the fall and winter semesters on Monday and Wednesday from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Texas Township Campus. For more information about joining the KVCC Campus Band please contact Chris Garrett at firstname.lastname@example.org.