There’s a group of musicians in town who get together a few times a week to play music and have a good time.
The group, known as the Grand Forks Community Band, also performs at various concerts and musical events throughout the area. The idea for a community band came up through open mic nights at Kocomo’s Coffee House, says Patrick Stevenson, one of the founding members.
“The community band started three years ago in Grand Forks,” he said. “It was initiated by the First Friday open mic nights and by Big Raven Community Productions. That came from an idea from another community where you bring your musicians together.”
Stevenson says that everyone wants to be a singer, everyone wants that experience, but not everyone has a band to back them up or someone to coach them.
“The whole idea was to bring together a bunch of musicians of all skill levels to create a community band so that we could back up the people in our community who want to learn how to sing or how to play and have that experience of being on stage,” he said.
Stevenson said so far the concept has gone over very well with over a dozen people joining the band.
“It’s been very successful,” he added. “We’ve had up to 14 members at once, which can be difficult but it’s been a lot of fun.”
Stevenson said the community band has eight committed members at this time. He said that the band is always accepting new members, whether it’s full-time or part-time.
“Anyone is allowed to join—anyone in the community,” he said. “If you have a song you want to produce, you want to sing, you want to record and you don’t have anyone to help you out, come see us. That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to help out our community in all of its musical endeavours in any way we can.”
The community band certainly lives up to their name, not only by having diverse group of musicians but also in that they support their community at events.
“Our group also does a lot of community stuff by volunteering and supporting and making sure that community events are going on in a good way,” said Stevenson. “We’ve been doing the Canada Day celebration; we’ve done the Christina Lake Homecoming; we’re doing a fundraiser on June 27 at Christina Lake’s Community Hall to help them finish their stage off.”
Stevenson said the band also does paid gigs and special shows.
“We’ve always got something on the go,” he said. “Right now we’re looking for a line-up of talent so we can put on a show at the GEM Theatre in the fall through Big Raven Productions. We did in once and it was very successful. We want to do it again this year highlighting all our local talent and tell a story as we do it.”
Besides being one of the main coordinators of the community band, Stevenson is also the lead vocalist and plays the rhythm guitar. Other members include Mike O’Neill on tenor sax and vocals; Michelle Croissant on keyboards and back-up vocals; Sacha Petulli, business coordinator and plays bass guitar and sax; Max Lindeman on percussion; Debbie McQueen on back-up vocals; Lise Tunold on back-up vocals; and Mandy Nielsen on vocal. Michel Petulli also helps out with engineering and producing.
The band has recently completed a couple of videos with local videographer Les Johnson. “They are all locally done,” said Stevenson. “We had a couple of the Hip Sisters as dancers in one of the videos. We had a couple of friends playing bit parts and telling a story.”
Stevenson said making the videos has been quite a learning process but the members are excited about seeing the final products.
“We’re going to be releasing them in a couple of weeks,” he said. “Our objectives this year are to get the videos done, do as much community work as we possibly can, and then applying for grants so we can do this full-time. That would be a great job to go to every day.”
Anyone interested in playing with the community band can contact Patrick at 250-443-1056. The band practices twice a week at PMP Studios in Grand Forks, a fully equipped music studio. Interesting musicians can just show up or call Patrick for more information.
“We will take anyone of any skill level and find where they fit with us,” he said. “We just want to give people that experience of singing in front of people and feeling like a rock star.”
The community band is still running the first Friday open mic nights but they have moved to Happy Days Diner.
“We’re excited about it,” he said. “It’s a new adventure. It’s a bigger place and a new venue plus they have a liquor licence. Kocomo’s was great, I will always have a soft spot for them, but it’s time to grow.”
Stevenson said the open mic nights are another great chance for budding local musicians to show off their skills.
He said there is a great deal of musical talent in the Grand Forks area but people tend to stick with their own clique. “They don’t get to experience a lot of the great music here and there is a ton, a ton of talent. I’d love to attract these people to come out and share with the rest of the community what they have.”