The Columbia Concert Band (CCB) originally began as a 25-person group called "Different Notes For Different Folks," started during the summer of 1977 by physicist Pete DiBona and community program director Sue Waller. It was formed to give non-professional musicians the opportunity to perform challenging band literature while educating and entertaining the public in Columbia, Maryland and the surrounding communities. The group membership grew during the following months and included music teacher Ed Kerman as the director. The band soon became a non-profit organization, and the members changed the name to Columbia Community Band, playing their first concert in May of 1978.
The band rehearsed at Hammond High School, where Mr. Kerman (who also started the UMBC Wind Ensemble in the late 70's) taught. This weekly gathering of dedicated musicians was an extra musical and social outlet for all member of the group: folks who had previously played instruments during their formal schooling, but had stopped for various reasons; and current professional musicians looking for another group with which to perform great music. As with many community music ensembles, this was and still is the attraction of the group to many in the Columbia area and beyond. Mr. Kerman led the band until approximately 1983.
The next director was French Hornist Ron Friedman, during whose leadership the group took a big step forward: They changed their name to Columbia Concert Band and became incorporated on November 18, 1983. Mr. Friedman led the band for six years, after which he continued to actively perform and teach in the Baltimore area, until his death in 2015.
In 1989 Howard County music teacher and percussionist Robert Miller took the podium and also created the Columbia Jazz Band (CJB) from within the concert band to provide a core group of musicians dedicated to performing modern American Jazz. While Mr. Miller brought much enthusiasm and added significantly to the groupís music library, the musicians ended up rehearsing in a number of local schools before settling at Hammond Middle School, where he taught. During this time, the group more than doubled in size, added many instruments to the inventory, and began a partnership with Howard Community College (HCC). In 2000, both groups experienced another leadership change when Mr. Miller stepped down to spend more time with his family.
After a lengthy audition process, the Columbia Concert Band chose Peabody graduate and music teacher Michael Blackman as director. Mr. Blackman had been a loyal musician in the group since 1986, but he traded his clarinet for a baton in 2000 and continues to bring a wealth of knowledge and dedication from the podium to the band members and the community.
Also since 2000, the Columbia Jazz Band has rehearsed and performed under the direction of Pete BarenBregge, former music director of the USAF premiere jazz band, Airmen of Note, and current jazz editor at Alfred Music Publishing. Mr. BarenBregge keeps a busy performance schedule, primarily on saxophones. His directorial selection was also the result of an audition.
In the latter half of 2012, the group expanded again, officially including Flute Cocktail, a Howard County based 12-piece flute ensemble that had been performing independently since approximately 2002. They are directed by Len Morse, who is a member of both the CCB and the CJB, and has either performed in or directed many concert bands, jazz bands and pit orchestras in the greater Baltimore/Washington/Annapolis area. About half of the Flute Cocktail musicians are from the concert and/or jazz band, while others are flautists from various local communities. And the group rehearses bi-weekly at the Howard County Arts Council in Ellicott City, MD.
The concert band and the jazz band rehearse regularly at River Hill High School in Clarksville, Maryland, less than seven miles from downtown Columbia, where their home venue, the Columbia Lakefront, is located. The concert band has previously held informal concerts each summer at various locations, including the Lake Elkhorn Festival, Maryland Community Band Day (hosted each year by a different band), the Maryland Music Educatorsí Convention in Baltimore, Lurman Summer Concert Series, and the Sunset Serenades at Centennial Lake. They also hosted the Kolping-Kapelle Kindsbach Band from Germany in 1981, and the Phileutonia Band from Holland in 1995.
The jazz band has also performed for many different events, including the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, the Lurman Summer Concert Series and several private local events. Most notably, the group has traveled to many European venues: Their 2008 summer tour included performances in Opatija, Croatia; Bled, Slovenia; Vienna, Austria; and the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland. Their 2010 summer tour included concerts in Amsterdam, Netherlands; London, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; and the Wigan International Jazz Festival near Manchester, England. Their most recent trip (summer 2012) took them to Istanbul, Turkey; Perugia, Italy; and Nice, France. These trips not only provided high-profile performance opportunities, but also allowed plenty of time to socialize, bond as musicians, and spread the joy of the American Big Band genre.
Columbia Bands, Inc. was officially formed in 2010 as a parent organization to provide a uniform and fair administration for the Columbia Concert Band, the Columbia Jazz Band, and any other small ensembles that form from within these groups. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Many thanks to Michael Blackman, Katy Clemens, Maurice Feldman, Marilyn Kelsey, Robert Miller, and Jim Wesloh for their assistance.