Salisbury community band is nearly as old as the park where it still performs

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There is a reason why the Salisbury Community Band has an historical connection with the city park; the band is nearly as old as the park itself.

The band began about 78 years ago with the formation of the Salisbury Municipal Band. Other attempts to form a community band were made but the municipal band which formed about 1937 is the one that has continued to entertain residents and visitors with what is an American tradition.

So it is fitting that the band’s first conductor was Herbert Berry Marston, a former solo clarinetist with John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) whose spirited patriotic marches inspired community bands all across the country, bands which formed early on largely for holidays and patriotic events.

The band’s home in Salisbury has been the city park which was created when in 1925 Mayor Thomas L. Parker, Sr. negotiated the purchase of 50 acres east of the railroad for the purpose of a sorely needed new city water system. Since only a small part of that land was needed for that purpose, the rest was developed as a park along the east prong of the Wicomico River.

But the swell of support for development of the park began in 1926 when the issue was brought up to the Rotary Club which added its approval to that of the Civic Committee of the Chamber of Commerce.

The Bicentennial of 1932 also focused improvements to the park, but during the historic storm of 1933, the upstream Schumaker Mill Dam failed, destroying early improvements to the park.

The bandstand and footbridge were constructed following that destruction. Since that time, the bandstand has had at least two renovations. During one of those times when the bandstand was unusable, the community band would perform on a platform created under the willow trees next to the river.

Marston, who was also band director at Wicomico High School, was the first of eight community band conductors including Michael Ronca, Andrew Jupina, Wallace Duyer, Charles F. Smith, Jr., Larry Harrison, Todd Riddleberger and the band’s current director, Howard Snow.

The bandstand’s last major renovation which was completed before the 2004 summer season has allowed for the band to occupy the structure as befitting a home for a community band.

 “The band has gone through a lot of changes over the years,” says Charles F. Smith, Jr. There have been different systems of management, now managed by a board of directors. The band size has fluctuated, and there have been challenges with dealing with the weather, adjustments for changes in participation of musicians, and the bandstand’s maintenance needed for any historic structure left out in the elements.

“The band is an outlet for musicians who move here,” says Smith. A few of the band members are high school and college students, but by far most are adults who have developed a love of playing instruments since their childhood and for the camaraderie that comes from sharing in the creation of good music.

 With any luck and some foresightedness, the bandstand and its Salisbury Community Band will be around in 2032, the date of Salisbury’s tercentennial, remaining for generations of musicians and music lovers alike.


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