I play alto sax with The Rancho Cordova River City Concert Band. I’ve been playing with the band for several years. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity, dedicated to providing music to the local community as well as promoting the arts. I’m the current president. Those are the basic facts, but I want to talk about some of the history, and how I feel about the band.
For starters, I wasn’t the first Buhl to join the band. My daughter joined about a year before I did. Melissa dropped her off every Monday night for a while. When Melissa got tired of that, she made me start dropping Bryanna off. I dropped her off exactly once, then started bringing my sax and playing with the band.
Those first couple of years, I had mixed feelings about the band. I didn’t feel like I was being used to my fullest potential. I felt frustrated and disconnected. I didn’t really know anyone other than Bryanna. I didn’t feel fully engaged. After Bryanna quit, I nearly quit, too.
Then in 2014, we hosted a convention in Rancho Cordova, and for the first time, I felt like a part of the band. I felt like I mattered. I volunteered my time, helped with stage crew, and when my competence was appreciated, I felt like I belonged.
That convention was an interesting experience. I got to spend some time with my old High School teacher, Larry Hudson. The band had worked really hard on the set list, and we played better than we’ve ever played. I played with the convention band. It was an amazing week.
But that convention came with a cost.
The president of the band at that time, Gary, had a gambling problem. Worse, he was in positions of authority and responsibility, not only in the River City Concert Band, but also the Sacramento Valley Symphonic Band Association (SVSBA). He was president and acting treasurer of both organizations. And he’d been cooking the books and stealing money from both organizations for awhile.
He’d talked of big game, about how we had sponsors and donations. About how the fundraising we’d done had been enough to pay for the convention. But shortly after the convention, Gary got sick, and the people that the band owed money started calling people other than Gary.
That’s when we found out how screwed we were. Almost $20,000 debt. And we had nothing.
The SVSBA had been hurt bad, too, and maybe I’ll talk about that organization in another post. A lot of people were hurt by Gary’s actions.
Before all that had gone down, I’d looked up to Gary. I wanted his approval. He had a grandfatherly way about him, and he seemed generous and kind. He commanded respect. He had clout. And then we all found out the hard way that for as much as we loved him, he had stolen from us to feed his own addiction.
Several of us regrouped. We worked out a deal with the city of Rancho Cordova. Part of that deal was formally changing our name to Rancho Cordova Rivery City Concert Band. There were other parts of that deal which didn’t sit that well with me. It was my first brush with local politics. We made compromises, did all of the proper paperwork, and now we’re a 501(c)(3) and our organization is much stronger. We’re close to paying off our debt. We may have been knocked for a loop by the actions of someone we trusted, but we got back up and kept playing music.
How do I feel about the band now?
I believe in the organization. The board is full of people that volunteer and follow through. We’re a good team. The band is full of good musicians, and most everyone steps up and does what needs to be done.
I don’t think we are playing as well as when we played for the convention. For the convention, we had a goal in mind, and we had a lot of really good pressure to force us to excel. We haven’t had that kind of pressure for a long time. We don’t have anything pushing us to reach beyond our comfort zone. I would like us to take on something that scares us a little, because I think that’s the fire that forges us and shapes us into something beautiful.
We’ve purchased some new percussion, but we don’t have a way to practice with it very easily. We don’t have very many percussionists right now, either. Logistics for moving equipment is still a concern.
One of my long term goals for the band is to find a permanent practice location. Some place that we can call our own, and where we can keep and use our equipment.
The challenge there is that for us to achieve that goal, I have to overcome one of my weaknesses: reaching out to people and asking them for stuff. That is not easy for me to do. I stress out about it. A lot of times, I can push these types of tasks off to other board members. But this particular one has been challenging. We’ll get there. It’s just taking longer than I like, and it’s my fault.
Those are my thoughts about the band, for better or worse. Like any family, it has its share of problems. But it is a good band, and I’m glad I’m still a part of it.