Redbank Valley Community Band Extends Opportunity to Be Lifelong Musicians

Blane Gold

Blane Gold

Published November 10, 2018 5:45 am
Redbank Valley Community Band Extends Opportunity to Be Lifelong Musicians

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT) — Eli Terwilliger has served as the Redbank Valley Marching Band director for the past three years. There has been another endeavor that he has been working on developing over that same time frame that many may not know about.

If you are a musician or a former musician; however, you just may want to know what it is all about.

Heading into its fourth session, the Redbank Valley Community Band allows individuals from New Bethlehem and surrounding communities to continue their passion for playing and performing music beyond their high school years.

For Terwilliger, this is exactly what he wants to accomplish as director of the community band. A position that he holds outside of his responsibilities as a music teacher and marching band director at Redbank Valley.

“I want my students to realize how important music is and show them that they can do it forever no matter what career path they choose,” explained Terwilliger. “I hope through the community band my students can understand that they can continue to play well into their adult years.”

For some, having the opportunity to play in the community band not only provides an opportunity to continue to practice their musical skills but also provides an outlet that others may find in fitness activities or other hobbies.

“Community band isn’t just playing an instrument to me,” explained Briana Kiehl, a 2008 graduate of Redbank Valley High School. “Music is therapy from a tough day at work or struggling to keep order at home. I thought I’d be horrible coming back from a six-year hiatus of picking up a saxophone but playing music is like riding a bike; you retain that skill for life. I’m glad I get the opportunity to share my ‘hidden talent’ with the community and my children. Taking my girls to practice with me is instilling a love of music in them and that’s one of the greatest gifts I can give.”

A bank manager, a university director, a professor, a teacher, a waitress, a shift supervisor, and a postal worker are just some of those careers that belong to members of the band which last year consisted of approximately 40 musicians. Of those 40 musicians, it was a 50-50 split between students and adults and participants ranged in age from 10 years old to 83 years of age.

The mix of students and community members is quite possibly what makes the community band so unique. Current students of Terwilliger get the opportunity to perform with musicians of all ages and backgrounds. It is something that current Redbank Valley eighth grade student, David Horner, says is the major strength of the band.

“Community band has given me the opportunity to expand beyond the classroom and share my love of music with people of similar interests,” explained Horner. “I have enjoyed getting to meet musicians outside of those I play with regularly and look forward to being a part of it for years to come.”

The band is not strictly reserved for Redbank Valley graduates or those living within the Redbank Valley School District as members travel from their homes in Brookville, Rimersburg, Knox, Kittanning, and even Pittsburgh to perform with others that share the same love for music.

Terwilliger explained that the idea for the band was born out of the success of the Russ Reefer Tribute Concert that was held in 2014 to honor the passing of Reefer who served as a music teacher at Redbank Valley School District for more than 32 years. It was through this concert that Terwilliger was able to establish contact information from those who expressed interest in forming a community band.

Local musicians perform at the 2014 Russ Reefer Tribute Concert

Local musicians perform at the 2014 Russ Reefer Tribute Concert

“The first session of the band took place in the summer of 2016. What we learned, however, is how busy summer is for everyone, including myself as I prepare marching band for their upcoming season. So we decided to hold a second session during that school year that took place in the winter months of 2016 and 2017 with another concert that followed in the spring. That worked much better and we have kept it during the winter months ever since.”

Rehearsals for the 2018-2019 community band will begin January 7th at 7:00 p.m. at Redbank Valley High School. Rehearsals will continue to be held once a week through January and February. A dress rehearsal will be held on March 2nd with the formal concert being held March 3rd.

Terwilliger is currently accepting new members as he seeks to increase the size of the band. Anyone interested in joining is encouraged to contact Terwilliger at or 814-365-5141.

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