The Early Years of Organized Greece BandMusic Groups

The earliest record of local community musical group activities begins in 1963, when Greece resident Phyllis Oyer, mother of current band member Brian Oyer, formed a summer band with students from the Charlotte High School area. The group, with Mrs. Oyer as director, rehearsed in the basement of the Oyer home until it quickly outgrew that space. In 1964 students from Greece Olympia and other local High Schools joined the group. Support from various school music teachers, especially Paul Tomasick and Ken Waide from the Rochester schools, and Roy Thrall from the Greece Central schools, as well as student and future Greece music educator, Tom Saul, enabled the band to flourish. It became the Northwest Concert Band, and performed many concerts in Greece and Monroe County. In 1966 there were 73 names on the band roster!

A chorus and orchestra for young people were also formed in 1964, with more local music educators sharing their talents. Mrs. Oyer had to “retire” in 1967, thus bringing an end to these organizations. The record shows that a significant number of future music educators, directors, composers and prominent performers were members of these 1960’s era musical groups.

During the 60’s and early 70’s another active band organization in the Greece area was the Barnard Fire Department Band directed by Ken Waide. That band was composed of adults, and among their honors and achievements is the fact that, in 1969, they were the first, and only firemen’s band to march in the Tournament of Roses Parade.

GPAS Formed May 1969, Community & Summer Bands 1972-74

In addition to the organizations mentioned above, by the mid 60’s there was significant instrumental and choral music activity through the Greece Central School District’s adult continuing education department. There was obviously a great desire among Greece  residents for opportunities to perform music . With that in mind, a group led by Bob Holtz, Director of Continuing Education and Roy Thrall, Director of Music for the Greece Central Schools, launched an effort on May 1, 1969 that would become the Greece Performing Arts Society. In June, 1972 the Society began discussions about forming a community concert band.

During the fall of 1972 a newly organized Greece Symphonic Band began rehearsals. Later that season, Gareth Greene, a local music teacher, became director, and local performances were given through 1973 and until the group was disbanded in Feb. 1974. During the summer of 1974 a summer band was launched with 50 members. Various concerts were given through 1975.

During the next 20 or so years there was no community band, but brass, percussion and woodwind players participated in the two GPAS orchestras which performed extensively during that period.

GPAS Forms Community Band 1993, Director Michael Kramarzyck

The “modern era” of the Greece Community/Concert Band began in October, 1993, when the Society created a committee to form a band. In September,1994 the Greece Community Band began rehearsals. Current band member Gareth Greene was instrumental in this accomplishment. Michael Kramarsyck, a local music teacher, was soon hired as director. The Band performed locally with about 45 members through Spring, 1995. During this time the band became a GCSD Continuing Education course and the directors of all Society musical groups became employees of the Continuing Education program starting in fall, 1995.

Renamed Greece Concert Band, Director Raffaele Ponti 1995 – 2001

Raffaele Ponti, a local music teacher and performer, was hired as the band director in September, 1995. The band became the Greece Concert Band in November, 1995. During the 1995 through spring 2001, the Concert Band under Director Ponti performed frequently throughout the Greece area. Many of the concerts were the original performances of what became recurring and familiar programs. These included SummerFest concerts with the Choral Society and other groups, combined performances with local school bands in various Greece schools, Christmas concerts in several local churches, special concerts for fundraising including a Sundae Concert complete with ice cream sundaes, the “Blow Away the Winter Blahs” concerts, and a Marches in May concert in 2000. The Supervisor’s Series concerts began with the GPAS organizations performing in the summer of 1999.

Greece Concert Band Directed by Glenn Call 2001-2008

Glenn Call was chosen as director beginning with the ’01-’02 concert season. Performances during the next few years included the Lilac Festival and fundraisers at St. Johns the Evangelist Church, Journey Home Hospice, and the recurring Blahs, Supervisor’s and Christmas programs. Many performances were also given during this period in the chapel at St. Bernard’s seminary, giving the band a unique concert venue.

GCB hires Director Gary Samulski, 2008-09 thru Spring 2014.

 Gary Samulski, Athena High School Band Director, was hired to lead the band in fall, 2008 and continued until his resignation in spring, 2014.

The music programs found in the Past Performances, Listen to the Band, and Videos links on this website are, as of spring 2014, all under the direction of Director Samulski. Gary’s remarkable leadership, creativity and energy resulted in the band growing in membership and musicianship, and experiencing a much greater range of musical performances.

During these years the Concert Band performed numerous times often sharing the stage with junior high and high school bands together with professional musicians, often at Athena Performing Arts Center (APAC), which opened in 2005. Noteworthy are the Beatles Spectacular Concerts with Mr. Mustard, a professional Beatles Reunion Group; the Evening of Irish Music and Dance concert with the Athena Strings, Scottish Bagpipes and Drums, and a spirited group of internationally recognized student Irish dancers; and the Motown & More and Superhits of the 70’s concerts with students and local professional party band Unlimited.

Concerts also included the annual Supervisor’s Memorial Day concerts under the tent, the Winter Blahs GPAS fundraisers, many Christmas concerts, and the extremely successful biennial Veterans Day concerts with student bands and orchestras participating.

The band was able to successfully perform the very challenging music presented at these concerts and expand our repertoire significantly. Retired from Athena HS since 2012, Mr. Samulski now continues as the Director of the GPAS Jazz Band, and is active with many other musical interests. The band members thank Gary for his friendship and dedication to our band over the last 6 years.

GCB Auditions May, 2014 for Director, 2014-2015 Season

 Several candidates were invited to audition for the Greece Concert Band director position during April and May, 2014. A new director was selected: BJ Comer began leading the band for the 2014-2015 season, and continues to this day. We look forward to new musical adventures and welcome interest from all local musicians who enjoy playing in a concert band. Please click on the Join Us link to learn more.

A big thank you goes out to William Coons, GPAS historian, for providing us with this information.

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