Greenpoint Gazette

Band Practice on Grand Street

BY Juliet Linderman

It’s 6:30 pm on a Tuesday evening and the Grand Street Campus is all but abandoned. At the entrance, a group of security guards talk quietly amongst themselves, waiting for the few after school stragglers to scoot out into the evening. At the end of the long hollow hallway, however, the band room is bustling with activity as horns blow, flutes twitter and members take their seats. This is the Grand Street Community Band, and they’re just getting warmed up.
Boasting between 50-65 members, the Grand Street Community Band is an all-volunteer orchestral ensemble that plays four concerts a year, in addition to a special summer series right here in Williamsburg. Fronted by original founding member Jeff W. Ball, who works during the day as a music teacher at the Grand Street Campus, the Grand Street Community Band, offers musicians an opportunity to learn, grow, meet one another and most importantly, have a good time.
“Playing together, with other high-level musicians is unlike anything else,” Ball said, his orchestra tuning up in the background. “Once you’ve experienced it, it’s pretty hard to live without.”
Ball assembled the first incarnation of the Grand Street Community Band roughly two years ago, out of a handful of friends, colleagues and music enthusiasts who had a desire to get together and play music, just for the fun of it. Ball had found himself working as a substitute trombonist with the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra, and began thinking about the other musicians of his caliber that weren’t so lucky as to land a gig with an ensemble.
“I was thinking that I really had to claw and fight to get into this orchestra. But where were all the other musicians of my skill level? I wanted to find them.”
Since its inception, the band has been rapidly growing, evolving and improving. Ball says that part of his motivation for creating the ensemble stemmed from his love of learning how to play instruments as a child and teenager, and to provide a space and opportunity for those who, unlike Ball himself, don’t integrate playing music into their daily routines.
“I’m a big believer in lifelong learning,” Ball said. “So many students play an instrument for 18 years then give it up. During that time it is such a big part of their identity. We’re all looking to keep playing music as much as we can.”
As a band teacher himself, Ball also put together the Grand Street Community Band as a way to create a more cohesive musical community for himself and his friends.
“Band teachers are kind of on an island,” Ball continued. “So often band teachers are the only ones in the school. We really have to work hard and reach out to other musicians in order to really sharpen the saw. It’s for fun, but it’s also for professional growth—for a lot of the players, it’s a chance to have band once a week, just like they used to.”
Sherman Hasselstrom, a band member who works in the financial sector, joined the Grand Street Community Band as a way to reconnect with his love of music, and to experience the comeraderie and community playing in an orchestra fosters.
“I played in an orchestra in high school and college, but then I lost touch,” Hasselstrom said. “But it’s about being a part of something bigger than just me—it brings me right back to the job I used to feel playing in bands when I was younger. Plus, it gets me away from my regular job!”
As artistic director, Ball is in charge of choosing the music for all Grand Street Community Band performances, which he believes is by far the most important part of his job. Their upcoming concert will be held on May 23rd at the Grand Street Campus at 3pm.

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