Bringing Back Musicians to Play the Music Forward

International Musician, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Bringing Back Musicians to Play the Music Forward


What goes around, comes around, goes the old saying, and it serves as both a karmic warning and an inspiration to follow the Golden Rule. It's the reason why we care for the elderly and the sick, why we teach, tell stories, and live in communities. It's why we depend on one another.

When multi-instrumentalist Jan Phillips of Local 798 (Taylorville, IL) decided to create the largest band in the history of Taylorville, she counted on the sympathy and support of the high school's musical alumni, even though some of them hadn't touched an instrument since graduation. She hoped they'd feel indebted.

"They knew what to do," says Phillips, music teacher at Taylorville High School (THS) and manager of the Municipal Band. "And they did it."

After a failed school tax referendum last fall, Phillips knew something needed to be done to protect the music departments of Taylorville schools. Inspired by an article in the International Musician, she had the idea to organize a reunion concert to raise funds.

Phillips decided to call the concert Play the Music Forward, as that was precisely what she was asking the alumni to do. Some had gone on to very successful careers as professional musicians and, therefore, undoubtedly considered their music education vital. She knew they would want to help provide Taylorville students and future generations with the same opportunities.

Contacting the alumni, however, proved difficult, and would require the community's assistance. Taylorville's local paper, the Breeze Courier, helped tremendously by printing multiple front-page stories about the fundraiser and its progress. In these, Phillips was quoted numerous times and used the exposure to request contact information for any alumni who had been in the high school band or orchestra over the past century. To add motivation, the Breeze Courier also promoted the raffle of a $1,750 solid-body electric guitar donated by the Taylor Guitar Company of El Cajon, California.

In a matter of months, using the Municipal Band as a platform, Phillips was able to form a 115-member band, including alumni from classes as far back as 1943. …

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