STEELE CREEK NEWS
Community Band Continues Musical Tradition
By Beth Bargar
17, 2004) Tradition lives on near Lake Wylie with different faces
and both fresh and seasoned talent.
The Steele Creek
Community Band has been reborn after an absence of nearly 75 years.
The band means different things to its members, ranging from middle
schoolers to middle-agers to a retired Marine colonel.
To the band’s
volunteer director, Keith Paulus of Steele Creek, the band evokes
memories of childhood music making and stories by his Uncle Harvey,
who gave him his first band instrument. Paulus still plays the “peck
horn.” Similar to a French horn but with a more varied range, the
instrument was once played by his uncle in a community band in
Corps colonel who
flew for a career but always led a choir or band at his postings. “George
is our professional,” Paulus said. “He is the one we call on for
help” with arrangements or sight-reading of music.
Band director Keith
Paulus signals the upbeat.
While the facts
are uncertain, Paulus and other band members think his uncle’s
Allentown Community Band may have been the oldest community
band in the United States.
“They don’t make peck horns anymore,” Paulus said. “I saw one
pictured in ‘The Music Man’ movie, but nowhere else.”
Paulus, along with
the other 20 or so band members, “hope to start a legacy
here,” he said, and maybe playing his uncle’s horn will help
to build the new tradition.
assistance from members such as euphonium player George
Cumpston of Lake Wylie and the student and adult band members,
the Steele Creek Community Band is well on its way to founding
a new tradition in the region. Begun just last spring, the
band has played several concerts and will perform at 2 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 14 at the Southern Christmas Show in Charlotte.
plays the euphonium, or baritone horn, and many other
instruments. Trained in college to teach music, Cumpston is a
Cochran (seated left) and Christopher Paulus. Kevin’s mother,
Debbie, plays keyboard in the band.
Keith Paulus plays his “peck horn,” a gift from his late
Paulus has two
sons in the band. Elder son Michael, 16, plays trombone, while
Southwest Middle Schooler Christopher is a drummer. Another family
connection is between bass clarinetist Jayme Zupko and her daughter,
Bethany, on flute. Bethany also plays oboe at Olympic High School.
In fact she comprises the oboe section, so rare are oboe players.
“It’s fun,” Bethany said of playing with her mother, who herself
played as a schoolgirl. Her mom became so involved with the new band
that she bought a new instrument, providing the clarinet’s deep,
mellow woodwind tones to contrast with the crisp notes of trumpet
and the rich contributions of trombone and other horns, keyboard and
left, on flute, and her mother, Jayme Zupkow, on bass clarinet.
Bobby Zike, a
seventh grader at Southwest Middle School, and older brother Steven
Zike of Olympic High School, are trumpeters. Steven says the
community band helps him and other players with their performances
in school groups and introduces them to new friends. “It makes us
better,” he said, “and it’s fun.”
believes the community band is about just that – community. “People
of different ages who like to play make up the band,” he said. “It’s
not about top-level skills, although we have very good players. But
anyone is welcome. We don’t hold auditions. If someone has an
instrument and wants to play with us, we want them.”
include a 5:30 p.m. concert on Friday, Dec. 3 in a courtyard behind
the Red Brixx Pizza at Ayrsley Center, on Tryon Street near
Westinghouse Blvd. The band plans a “pops” program and other events
in the spring and summer and welcomes invitations from area
organizations to play.
“In the old days,
the first Steele Creek Band played for the community, and that’s
what we want to do,” Paulus said.
He refers to the
original Steel Creek Community Band (so-named before the final –e
was added to steel), founded in 1883. That band wore colorful
uniforms and played Sousa marches and patriotic music.
Collins Freeman, an organizer of the original band and its director
for 42 years, was quoted in the Sept. 4, 1938 Charlotte Observer. “…
I was instructed to order 17 instruments … and not one of us knew
how to play them,” he said. “No affair of consequence took place …
that we did not furnish music,” he recalled. No members “were ever
known to be in trouble or arrested for a violation of the law,” he
added. The last public performance of the original band was at a
Wadesboro courthouse dedication in 1925.
Nearly 75 years later, the Steele Creek Community Band, with its
cadre of musicians ranging from junior high students to seasoned
players, continues the original group’s endeavor “to exert a
wholesome influence at all times.”
information about the original Steel Creek Band, see the story on
Steele Creek Historical and Genealogical Society web
season the band, attired in polo shirt uniforms, plans a play list
of holiday favorites. At the suggestion of Col. Cumpston, the “We
Wish You a Merry Christmas” number will include a vocal addition.
Secular and sacred songs relating to Christmas and Chanukah will
round out seasonal concerts.
strongest number, however, remains their throat-tightening rendition
of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
patriotic tunes are much requested by audience members. “We plan to
be the voice of patriotism in Steele Creek,” he said. “As a
community band, we want to provide what is important to our
playing music, but also offering instrumental instruction, support
for school band booster organizations, and the opportunity for
people to get involved. “Instrumental music fills an interesting
void,” he said. “Some of us haven’t played since we were kids. Some
are accomplished in their school bands now. We invite people of any
level of skill to join us. We’re all learning together.”
involved, contact Keith Paulus at 704.408.1118 or visit
www.steelecreekband.com. The band can use new members, used
instruments from residents’ attics, and audience support. As
membership has grown, Sunday afternoon rehearsals have been held in
the historic one-room schoolhouse the Steele Creek Athletic
Association uses as a community center.
published in the
Lake Wylie Pilot November 9, 2004. Reprinted here
with the permission of the author. Photographs by Beth Barger.)