A view from the percussion section of the Sequim City Band, with director Tyler Benedict during the concert Aug. 22, 2021. Not visible are the tuba and percussion sections. (Jesse Major/Jesse Major Photography)

A view from the percussion section of the Sequim City Band, with director Tyler Benedict during the concert Aug. 22, 2021. Not visible are the tuba and percussion sections. (Jesse Major/Jesse Major Photography)

Sequim City Band starts campaign for rehearsal space

‘Fill the Tuba’ effort has raised 80 percent of its $1 million goal

SEQUIM — With some timely fundraising, musicians with the Sequim City Band may be getting a bit more elbow room for rehearsals.

The group of musicians who hail from across the North Olympic Peninsula is looking to put the finishing touches on “Fill the Tuba,” a capital campaign to raise about $1 million to construct an extended rehearsal space at Swisher Hall, part of the James Center for Performing Arts.

Vicky Blakesley, a spokesperson for the band, said last week the organization had raised about 80 percent of its goal through grants from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust ($300,000) and Department of Commerce’s ArtsFund ($250,000), from private donations ($225,000) and pledges ($27,000).

“The majority of private donations and pledges are from band members,” Blakesley said.

With the initial budget being listed at $1,011,000 for construction, Blakesley said the group would need to raise another $200,000 to create the structure.

Other funds would be needed for items such as chairs.

Band representatives announced the capital campaign at their “Together Again” concert on Aug. 22 but didn’t want to make a public request for community support until they had the bulk of fundraising in hand, she said.

Since 2005, when the band’s donation of the James Center to the City of Sequim was completed, the band has rehearsed in the small one-story building at the south side of the outdoor stage.

Swisher Hall — a 1,500-square-foot space — was meant as a storage space for file cabinets containing sheet music and percussion equipment and a working area for a music librarian, band members say.

And while the space could comfortably accommodate 35 musicians, the band already numbered 40 members in 2005. Most years, the band boasts more than 50. It had 70 members at its summer concert in August.

While the group rehearsed outdoors for that performance, band members for much of the year struggle to rehearse in the current room, battling noise issues and a lack of air conditioning.

“Most band members use ear plugs specifically designed for musicians to protect their hearing during rehearsals because the rehearsal room is sub-optimal in its acoustical properties, having a 12-foot flat ceiling,” Blakesley said.

Over the years, the band’s board of directors has set aside money to fund feasibility studies when it became apparent a larger rehearsal space would be needed.

“It has become obvious that all of these musicians and instruments can no longer squeeze into Swisher Hall,” Blakesley said.

While the band was on the pandemic hiatus, the band’s board of directors spent the past 18 months examining the alternatives for an expanded rehearsal space.

In June, the board picked Roy Hellwig of Tormod Hellwig, LLC to develop the project concept, initial plans and a construction budget, and Steve Zenovic was selected as project leader.

More space

The rehearsal space, Blakesley said, is planned to be acoustically designed for a large musical group — specifically, it will have a 20-foot ceiling — as well as an air conditioning system.

“Rehearsal space helps a community band flourish. The time spent in the rehearsal room brings a high level of enjoyment to community musical ensembles such as the Sequim City Band,” said Jonathan Pasternak, conductor and music director of the Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra and guest trombonist and percussionist for the Sequim City Band.

“The physical space can help expand psychological space and comfort to the experience of making music, which transforms again when the audience hears the music,” he said.

In partnership with the City of Sequim — despite its name, the Sequim City Band is not affiliated with the municipality — the band will pay for construction of the rehearsal building and then transfer ownership to the city in exchange for a long-term use lease.

Blakesley said more steps lie ahead regarding permitting and the city lease agreement, but as of last week, those discussions looked promising.

Active group

Musicians in the Sequim City Band who perform multiple free concerts hail from across the Peninsula, from Forks to Port Hadlock and all locations in between.

The band frequently hosts other nonprofit musical groups annually, such as the Port Townsend Summer Band, local high school wind ensembles and Navy Band Northwest.

“It’s (music) a universal language that everyone understands,” said Bob Golightly, a clarinetist with the band for 23 years who highlighted the importance of live music in Sequim in his biopic on the band’s website.

“It’s apolitical, pulling people together, rather than dividing them,” he said.

The band also supports younger musicians and invites high school students to join and participate in the public concerts.

The Sequim City Band has a scholarship program for young players who plan to continue playing music while they pursue a college degree.

In addition to the free public concerts, the band supports and performs at other community events, including downtown concerts at Christmas time, Music in the Park in Sequim and Music on the Pier in Port Angeles, the Senior Holiday luncheon and more.

The band also has small group ensembles that have performed at smaller venues such as the Clallam County Fair, various assisted living facilities and the U.S. Coast Guard Station Port Angeles.

Representatives of the Sequim City Band have offered to speak to groups about the project; connect with the band via the “Contact” tab on the band’s webpage at sequimcityband.org or leave a voicemail at 360-207-4722.

The Sequim City Band is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization for the purpose of taxable deductions.

For more information, visit facebook.com/Sequim.City.Band or sequimcityband.org.

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

About 40 musicians pack into Swisher Hall for a rehearsal in 2016. (Richard Greenway)

About 40 musicians pack into Swisher Hall for a rehearsal in 2016. (Richard Greenway)

A view from the trombone section of the Sequim City Band, with director Tyler Benedict during the concert Aug. 22, 2021. (Jesse Major /Jesse Major Photography)

A view from the trombone section of the Sequim City Band, with director Tyler Benedict during the concert Aug. 22, 2021. (Jesse Major /Jesse Major Photography)

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