Band unites musicians of all ages and abilities
In name and in practice, this group is about two things: music and inclusion.
The Pueblo West Community Band was started just three years ago, but has grown from 14 to 56 members in that span. The group was created by George Hammersmith, an experienced musician who, at the time, was still a music student at Colorado State University-Pueblo.
His intent was simple: Form a group for musicians — of all ability levels — who wanted to be part of a band and give several public concerts each year. The criteria, as stated on the band’s website: “If you love to play music, you’re welcome to join us.”
As the band’s name exemplifies, Hammersmith’s initial recruiting was focused on one area. Now, however, the band has members from Pueblo West, Pueblo, Florence, Rye, Canon City, Westcliffe, Fowler, Wetmore and Colorado Springs.
“I thought the need would be strictly in Pueblo West, but it turned out there was a much larger need,” said Hammersmith. “We’ve been able to provide an opportunity that all ages can join. We’ve had from elementary students to professionals and we adapt the music to whatever we have in the group. It’s been perfect — a great group of people to work with.”
One professional musician who lauds Hammersmith for developing the group is Al Eberhardt. Eberhardt was one of Hammersmith’s instructors at CSU-Pueblo.
“It’s a truly all-inclusive band and it is the only one like it in the entire region,” said Eberhardt. “The others (admit members) by invitation or audition.”
Despite a full schedule working as a substitute music and drama teacher in District 70 and giving private music lessons, Hammersmith, 25, is part of the Southern Colorado Community Band in Canon City and the Sangre de Cristo Community Band in Westcliffe (he plays the tuba).
“We share a lot of the same musicians between groups, so it’s nice to put down the baton sometimes and play,” he said. “And it gets me out of town once in a while.”
There’s a big difference between being part of a music group and directing one. Eberhardt thinks Hammersmith handles both roles well.
“He has learned the skills needed of a young director very well and it shows,” said Eberhardt. “His members like him very much and the group has grown by leaps and bounds.”
The members are practicing for their next free concert, which will take place at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 at Majestic Baptist Church, 494 E. Hemlock Drive in Pueblo West. They average about 200 people at performances, said Hammersmith, and are excited about moving to the new, larger auditorium that will be built at Pueblo West High School.
“It will be open to the community to use, so we’ll be able to rehearse there and perform,” he said. “We’re in the largest building we can find and are about to outgrow it.”
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