Star-spangled sounds


A Greenwood woman rarely misses a chance to visit the community where she was born and raised.

On Sunday, Carol Stark Bales not only had the chance to return to Brownstown but also had the opportunity to showcase the musical skills she honed during her school days.

“There’s so much nostalgia here,” Bales said just minutes before she joined other members of the Columbus City Band for its annual pre-Fourth of July concert on the Jackson County Courthouse lawn.

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“I love being here,” she said. “I see a lot of people I know.”

Besides Bales, the band features plenty of other local musical talent that begins with Steve McGrew of Seymour, who became director in 1995.

McGrew spent 32 years as band director at Seymour High School until he retired in 2001. His assistant, Dick Parman of Brownstown, was a longtime band director at Brownstown Central High School.

McGrew said the courthouse is a great venue, and it provides great acoustics for the band.

The hourlong concert, conducted on the last Sunday in June before the Fourth of July holiday, features a lot of marches, including “You’re a Grand Old Flag” by George M. Cohan and John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

On Sunday, the band also played the “Brass is Bold” march composed by former Brownstown Central band director Keith Skelton.

Skelton, who retired in 1975 and died in 2002, was Bales’ band director and inspiration for the four years she was in school. During those years, she was majorette and was president of the band her senior year.

“I was stunned when I saw this,” she said of the sheet music for “Brass is Bold.” That’s because it was in Skelton’s handwriting and not a copy.

She said she was happy to learn during a recent rehearsal that the band was going to play Skelton’s composition.

McGrew said patriotic songs, especially marches, just seem to get into people’s veins around the Fourth of July, and the band just loves playing on the courthouse lawn.

“It’s a great audience,” he said.

The concert has been sponsored by the Brownstown Fund for the Arts for a number of years now and is a great way to kick off the Fourth of July festivities, Joe Reynolds said.

“We appreciate the Columbus City Band for playing each year,” said Reynolds, who is a member of the Brownstown Fund for the Arts.

Despite the warm temperatures, the concert drew more than 100 people who set up chairs or spread out blankets under the trees on the courthouse lawn.

The attendees included Tom and Darlene Cooley, who always try to make the trip from Seymour to listen to the band.

“We enjoy the patriotic music, and we think it’s really wonderful that the band comes down every year and performs for us,” Darlene Cooley said. “It’s such a lovely setting in front of the courthouse. It’s a very nice afternoon.”

The band has been making the 30-mile trip from Columbus to Brownstown on the last Sunday in June since 2005.

The Columbus City Band was founded in 1843 and has a roster of more than 50 musicians. Besides Parman and McGrew, the band features more than a dozen people who call Jackson County home along with several others who have a connection to the county, such as Bales.

Many of the band members, like Bales, played in school and just enjoy playing.

The band also features some young musicians, including percussionist Neel Deshpande of Columbus, who will be a student at Central Middle School in Columbus this coming school year.

“I’ve played three concerts with the Columbus City Band,” he said.

He said he likes playing with musicians who have lots of experience.

“It’s really good being here,” Deshpande said.

Kaylee Fleenor of Hope played the bass drum and accessories Sunday.

“It’s my first concert with this band,” she said. “I’ve only played three rehearsals with the band.”

Fleenor, however, has played with other groups, she said.

If you missed Sunday’s performance, you can catch the Columbus City Band again when it performs at 7 p.m. July 26 at the pavilion during the Jackson County Fair in Brownstown.