Watsonville Community Band prepares for spring concerts

Assistant Conductor Samuel Oh (from left), Conductor Brad Gronroos and Conductor Emeritus Eugene Smith compare notes on musical pieces for Watsonville Community Band's upcoming Spring Concert.

WATSONVILLE — Longtime Watsonville Community Band member Eugene Smith currently lives in Calaveras County, a some 200 miles from his hometown of Watsonville.

But that hasn’t stopped him from making band practice every other week.

Smith joined the group as a Watsonville High School sophomore in 1966. He has played tuba, french horn and trombone in the band, and also acted as conductor. Smith has been with the group through many different incarnations and on journeys with them across the nation and the world.

“There’s not another band like this anywhere,” Smith affirmed. “It’s not just about the music, but about the community—the family that’s created. That’s what keeps me coming back.”

On May 5, Smith will join the rest of the members of the Watsonville Community Band for its 71st annual Spring Concert at the Henry J. Mello Center for the Performing Arts. Smith will be joint-conducting the concert with current conductor Brad Gronroos and guest conductor Samuel Oh from Salinas.

The concert will feature musical selections from Rossini’s “Barber of Seville,” Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Procession of the Nobles,” Ticheli’s “Shenandoah,” Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes” and more.

This year, the show will include a special performance by the Watsonville Community Band’s Youth Band, under the direction of Alice Miller. First started in 2016 as a summer music program, the band currently boasts over 30 young members.

“We’ve been a non-profit for about 15 years now,” said the band’s board president Dana Sales. “The Youth Band has really added onto our mission of what we do here.”

Sales joined the band in 1995, right on time to be part of the group’s first trek to Washington, D.C. to play at the White House the following year. He plays timpani and bass drum.

“It’s amazing being part of this group of people who are so passionate about making music,” Sales said.

Following their concert in Watsonville, the band will perform at Peace United Church of Christ, 900 High Street in Santa Cruz on May 11. Both concerts begin at 2 p.m. and there is no charge for admission.

“There’s a lot of pride that comes from being in this band,” Smith said. “The fact we are from such a small town, doing these amazing things. You truly feel like you represent your community.”

For information on the Watsonville Community Band and its upcoming shows visit watsonville-band.org.