Bowdoin Concert Band and Chorus conducted a variety of performances over the years, and for both groups, Bowdoin students aren’t the only ones performing. The band and chorus are medleys of students, alumni, high school students and all sorts of other community members.
The Bowdoin Concert Band has 50 members, about a third of which are members of the larger Brunswick community.
“We have adults that will drive anywhere from [one to two] hours one way to come and play. [It] has to be a special experience for them to make that trip, and they do it in the snow [and] in the rain. It’s just a very special thing for them,” Bowdoin Concert Band director John Morneau said. “[There’s] a real commitment there.”
Morneau has been the director of the concert band for 35 years and says that integrating community members into the band not only fosters a collaborative environment, but also offers students the opportunity to experience pieces composed for a full ensemble.
“We had to bring in adults and sometimes advanced high school students to fill in the spots where we didn’t have people, [which] has allowed us to increase the level of the repertoire that we play,” Morneau said.
Alicia Scott began playing flute decades ago in the fourth grade and decided to try out the piccolo when her school first got one two years later. She has played the piccolo ever since and began playing for the Bowdoin Concert Band in 2011 by Morneau’s invitation.
Scott and Morneau met in 1994, when Scott joined a band directed by Morneau. While Morneau no longer conducts that band, the two still work together as members of the Bowdoin ensemble. Despite the age gap between students and community members, Scott says the group gets along very well.
“The camaraderie is so wonderful.… I love the students, I love speaking with the students. I, of course, also bond with some other adult members as well,” Scott said.
Bella Tucci ’23, who has been a member of the concert band since her first year, began playing the tuba in high school.
“I’d never played a brass instrument before, [so] it felt really funny. But it was the sound, that low, full, brassy sound—I think [it’s] really beautiful. That’s why I think I’m still playing it now. I’m just in love with the sound that it makes,” she said.
Tucci shares Scott’s sentiment about the encouraging dynamic between community members and students.
“We were playing a song from ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ and I had a solo. I remember a lot of people—but especially community members—came up to me and were so supportive,” Tucci said. “[It] was so lovely to hear, especially as someone who isn’t super confident in my tuba abilities. They don’t care about that—they care about you growing as a musician and being there to have fun, being in that community and making music together.”
The Bowdoin Chorus, in addition to Bowdoin students and community members, includes members of Portland-based symphonic chorus Oratorio Chorale. The musical group is directed by Emily Isaacson, who also directs the Bowdoin Chorus.
Joe Heasly joined Oratorio Chorale in 2017 as a tenor and began contributing to the Bowdoin Chorus after the two groups began rehearsing and performing together in 2021. Heasly played piano, clarinet and saxophone growing up and says chorale singing offered more opportunities as he began to balance raising a family.
“I think one of the things I like about [Oratorio Chorale] is that it’s really a welcoming, friendly group.… One of the parts of the mission is to try to present classical music in a less formal way to make it accessible to people who might not otherwise hear it,” Heasly said.
The Bowdoin Chorus also offers opportunities for Bowdoin alumni to get involved. Abigail Abbott ’08 has engaged with music from childhood, majoring in music at Bowdoin and singing in the Chorus during her college career. By participating in the Bowdoin Chorus, many find ways to stay engaged with the College after graduating.
“The Chorus has been a really nice way to stay connected to the college and to be able to meet students and talk to them about their lives and their interests,” Abbott said.
Abbott emphasizes the ability of the Bowdoin Chorus to bring together singers with a large range of experience and allow them to be a part of high quality rehearsals and performances, while improving the skills of inexperienced and experienced singers alike.
Both the Bowdoin Concert Band and Chorus reinforce the strong network between the College and the greater Maine community.
“It doesn’t feel so much like they’re part of a Bowdoin ensemble as it does us being part of a community ensemble. It feels very unified. It feels like a community that we have on that stage,” Tucci said.