While visiting Bradenton recently I attended an all-Gershwin concert presented by the Manatee Community Concert Band in the Manatee High School auditorium. The band along with three soloists were well-received by a large audience as evidenced by its enthusiastic response.
I'm also familiar with the Municipal Band of Charlottesville (Va.), having lived in that city for seven years. They, too, are a popular group with a dedicated following in a city similar demographically and size-wise to Bradenton.
However, the similarity between the two groups ends there. In 2000 the Virginia group appealed to the community, band members and their families, foundations, local businesses and both the city and county leaders for funds to buy a lot and build their own Municipal Arts Center.
Here, they rehearse, meet, and store instruments, stands, music and all things bands need. They receive continuing financial support from both the city and the county, which have written them into their budgets. All the band performances are free, including those of the seven small ensembles within the band.
This is exactly what the Manatee band needs: a permanent home for rehearsals and all the accoutrements they use to produce their fine performances. Instead, they move around from church hall to church hall, hauling instruments, including percussion, stands, boxes of sheet music, and whatever else; setting up and then removing the equipment until the following week for rehearsal. They do it because they love creating the food for the soul music is.
I think the leaders in both Bradenton and Manatee County need to take a serious look at this valuable resource and put together a plan to help them build or buy a permanent venue. They deserve it for all the enjoyment they lovingly provide to local residents -- and visitors like me.