If you enjoy playing music but haven’t had a chance to play in a while, then dust off your horn and practice with the Sweetwater Municipal Band. Their membership has gotten a little low, and they would love to have new members to help keep the band alive for the community.
Larry Ludlum, president of the band, said that all that’s required is a love of music and to at least be able to play at the high school level. The band is especially in need of woodwind and brass players, but welcomes any players of any instrument. They play mostly big band, jazz style music and patriotic tunes. They also welcome band members of any age – high school and up.
Ludlum stressed that you don’t need to be a polished musician to play with them, just a little experience and the desire to learn or get back into practice. Ludlum said he joined the band after not playing a note in 16 years. When trying out one of the first pieces of music, he said he could only play the first and last notes. “It then caught me by surprise when, after about six months, I realized that I could play the entire song,” he said.
Richard Smola, one of the founding members, said on average a new member will get completely comfortable playing with the group in about a year, which he says works out well for someone that is planning on staying in the Sweetwater area for a while. Smola and Ludlum look at the band as a chance for musicians to continue to use their talents and bring enjoyment to others. “One of the neat things about music is that you can keep doing it all your life,” Smola pointed out.
The band was re-started in 1989 after a lapse of about 50 years. Smola said a group of ex-Sweetwater High School band members saw a need for a band for the July 4th parade when school bands were disbanded for the summer. Most of the starting band members in 1989 were also members of the St. Stephens Episcopal Church, and even the vicar of the church at that time, Rev. Frank Swindle, lead the way for them by directing the band and re-arranging some of the music for them.
The band actually got its first start in the early 1900s, a time when all communities had their own bands that participated in local civic events and annual statewide competitions. Smola’s father-in-law, George Thompson, was a member of that original band in the 1930s, which was one of the things that motivated Smola to bring it back to life in 1989.
The current director is Billy Weems, who has an extensive music background himself. He played trumpet and directed military bands while serving in the U.S. Army for 20 years. He’s also been known to play “Taps” when the need arises.
Although the Municipal Band has some “almost professional” members, Smola and Ludlum describe themselves as an informal group who just enjoys playing together. The band plays at civic functions in Sweetwater and in the surrounding communities. Some of their annual gigs include the WASP Homecoming and the Christmas Concert at the Municipal Auditorium. They also play at a Memorial Day event in Blackwell.
The group practices on Tuesday nights from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at 405 Oak Street across from West Texas Molding. If you are interested in playing or have any questions about the band, please contact Larry Ludlum at 325-864-3223 or Richard Smola at 325-370-0292.
The next function of the band will be on July 4th at Newman Park. More information on that event will be announced at a later date.