A band for everyone.
That’s what the local Gateway Concert Band aims to be — not just for their audience, but also for their musicians.
After a series of community bands that came and went since the 1940s, local tuba player David Elstad decided to put a notice in the Enumclaw Music Store about forming a new group.
That was in 1996; two-and-a-half decades later, the Gateway Concert Band continues to play strong (and Elstad continues to perform with them).
Director Jack Prindle said in a recent interview that one of the reasons Gateway has survived thus far is because it draws musicians from all over the Plateau and even beyond (hence the name, which comes from this area being the gateway to Mount Rainier), not limiting itself to hyper-local talent like previous bands did.
But, maybe even more importantly, the band consists of musicians of all ages, and all experience levels, from middle schoolers learning percussion to professional retirees.
“We play challenging music,” Prindle said. “But the emphasis is not on perfection — the emphasis is on participation and enjoyment.”
As an example, player Wendy Parker hadn’t touched her french horn for 20 years before joining up with the band around 2010, and she started playing alongside expert musicians immediately.
“It’s so fun. It becomes its own community. It’s always welcoming and enjoyable… They really do prop up and make everybody else around them better,” Parker said.
With this focus in mind, that means Prindle will work with musicians to find them the best roles in the music to play, and Gateway musicians often switch which parts they play — from fourth horn to first, or vice versa — even in the same concert, so that players don’t feel “shoehorned” into any specific roll in the band, the director continued.
All that said, there’s also no pressure to perform in front of an audience; musicians can show up for every practice but, if they decide they’re not ready to perform, or simply can’t make it to the concert, Prindle and the band’ll work around that and figure out how to get all the parts covered.
“We will not hassle you about it,” Prindle said, adding that he recognizes that as a community band, he realizes musicians have other time commitments. “The best we can do is hope to come into fifth place, after family and job and health… we understand that.”
The band meets every Monday night, 7 to 9 p.m., at the Enumclaw Masonic Center, almost all year ‘round minus after the December concerts for the holidays. Local concerts are held in December and April at the Enumclaw High School auditorium, plus at the city of Enumclaw’s annual Veterans Day celebration at Veterans Memorial Park and Memorial Day at the Tahoma National Cemetery.
There are no tryouts for the band; members are encouraged to donate a $15 a month due, but Prindle said band members can also find other ways to give to the group beyond cash.
The Gateway Concert Band’s upcoming concerts at EHS will be held on Dec. 3 at 2 p.m., and Dec. 4 at 7:15 p.m.
The concert is free, but a $10 donation is encouraged.
Given the season, this year’s concert is called “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and features both classic and modern Christmas music with some cross-cultural pieces.
Without spoiling too much, Prindle appeared extra excited to direct a medley of old English Christmas songs, as well as a “very clever” arraignment of “Jingle Bells”, “where they take little pieces of the song and just toss it and combine it and have all kinds of fun with it,” he said.
For more information on the Gateway Concert Band, head to gatewayconcertband.org; however, Prindle said the website’s information is a little out of date, so perhaps contact them at 360-825-5369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.