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The NEW Pioneer Band

Vision of the Organizer 

I'm Bob Graham. I'm a downtown Phoenix historical architect, history wonk, and amateur brass musician and collector. This band idea is something of a personal cause of mine. I've come back to music after a thirty-six year hiatus, having quit  playing trumpet and piano halfway through college to build a career.

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With three years of diligent rebuilding of the 'ol chops, I was ready to play in an ensemble of some sort, but the available opportunities didn't really appeal to me.  Most community bands in Phoenix are based in the suburbs, and I live downtown. I also really like the whole idea of reliving the early-twentieth-century band tradition that is described on these pages, and I don't see any downtown groups doing that. 

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So,  in  October, 2021, we started this new band.  We are still welcoming more  like-minded people who see the appeal of this idea. Keeping in the spirit of the original, it's intended to be a mixture of  musicians, experienced and inexperienced, amateur and professional, just like when it was first organized in 1880.  And I see this as a fairly small group - again, the original Pioneer Band averaged about 15 people, and some community bands were much smaller!

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I'm quite serious about the amateur part. While I rose to the ranks of the first trumpet section at ASU, I'm no music pro and don't pretend to be one.  If you played a band instrument in high school or college, or even grade school, and would like to get back into making music in a low-pressure, fun way, this may be for you.  But this should be enjoyable for more experienced players as well.

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Here are some additional details of how the band has come together.

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Organization

The new Phoenix Pioneer Band is open to every one without restriction to age, sex, race, etc. It will be run like a typical small nonprofit group. All band members will have a voice in the direction of the organization. Once things get complicated enough to need a formal organization, we will elect a slate of corporate officers who will organize day to day operations.  All of the following characteristics are a starting point, with the eventual direction will be determined democratically.

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Music

This band will focus on the music played by American community bands (usually, "brass bands") between about 1880 and 1940. Fortunately, there is an almost unlimited supply of FREE public-domain music available on the internet.  If you want to see what I mean, check out the Band Music PDF Library.  Just poking around in there, I have found many old favorites and a lot of the music actually played by the PPB back in the day.

A lot of the music played by the original Phoenix Pioneer Band is known, as they often printed the programs in the newspaper. We may give preference to pieces like these, which more closely connect  this band with its historical model.

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The Instrumentation

This band can operate with a minimum range of instruments needed to make music. The following list is a rough idea of what parts we'd like to cover. As I mentioned above, I collect vintage brass instruments, so if you would like to participate but lack the horn, I can provide many of the brass instruments:

  • Two B-flat cornets

  • One E-flat alto horn

  • One B-flat tenor trombone

  • One B-flat baritone horn/euphonium

  • One tuba

  • Two clarinets

  • Two flutes

  • Percussion: snare and bass drum

Bonus instrumentation, also helpful and welcome; most of which the historic musical scores have parts for:

  • E-flat soprano cornet

  • E-flat tuba

  • Piccolo

  • Saxophones

  • Oboe, bassoon

  • Additional seats of ANY of the above.

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Musical Direction

While the group is small we may not need a "real" director. For pieces with a simple consistent tempo, like marches, the group can keep together without one. More complex pieces would be much better with a director who's not playing. Of course if anyone with conducting experience would like to participate, by all means let us know!

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Time Commitment

Practice sessions are currently on a staggered schedule of  Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings (see the events page for details).   You don't have to make every one, but we hope you can make at least half the practices to play in performances. 

We still have to decide how active we will be in performing.  For a start, we are planning to play at the monthly First Friday event on Grand Avenue, at least through April 2022.

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Location

Our rehearsal space is in the back of my studio at 1114 Grand Avenue. I expect the bulk of the gigs will occur on Grand or in the downtown area.  Downtown is where the history is, and where the arts/culture scene is open to groups like this.  

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