“When everything is all said and done, I think my biggest accomplishment in life will be conducting the Medina Community Band. I hope that is what I am remembered for.”
Those words were spoken by Marcus Neiman, whose name has become synonymous with the Medina Community Band.
Having held the leadership position since the fall of 1972, Neiman has served as conductor longer than any of his predecessors in the history of the Medina Community Band, which has performed for 20 different conductors since it was formed in 1859.
The final two performances of the 2015 season are Friday and July 31, both at 8:30 p.m. at Medina’s Uptown Park gazebo on Public Square.
“I grew up in Akron,” Neiman said. “My parents owned a wine store, and I worked in the store from the time I was 8 or so and until I was out of college. Neither of my parents were musicians.”
Neiman said his passion for music likely began when he first experienced a performance by the Cleveland Orchestra, and it grew after he first saw the University of Akron’s marching band.
“It was the best of both worlds, getting to see both performances when I was young. As a music education major or teacher, you have to be able to play all of the instruments, so that early exposure was certainly beneficial to helping me determine what career I would pursue,” Neiman said.
Neiman came to Medina to become the Bees’ high school band director in 1972. Eight years later, he became the fine arts consultant for the Medina County Schools Educational Service Center, and 20 years after that, he worked as the director of fine arts tours and festivals. He retired as an educator in 2010.
There has been an arts attraction in Medina County that is special, Neiman said, and it has motivated him to remain in a performing capacity in the community for 43 years.
“You have to remember that there is a town band in Brunswick, Wadsworth, Litchfield. … It’s impressive that all of these bands exist in our county and continue to thrive. That is because Medina County supports the arts in general, and there seems to be a deep-rooted passion and talent for musical performance here,” Neiman said.
The Medina Community Band’s 156 years of performances reinforce Neiman’s belief in the community’s talent pool and how the group has been accepted as an institution.
“You find people that have been coming to the concerts not just for years, but for decades,” Neiman said.
“Their parents brought them to the concerts, and their parents’ parents brought them to the concert. … The Medina Community Band is the fabric of the community.”
Neiman said the band’s concerts draw crowds of 500 to 800 “when it doesn’t rain.” Special events such as the July 4 performance can attract as many as 1,500.
“You will see those people that have come to our concerts for decades sitting in the same place during every concert, and they very seldom miss our performances,” he said.
Like Neiman, many of the musicians have been with the band for years.
“We have five new members that are celebrating their first year with us. There are 30 people in the band that have been there between one and five years. Another five people have been in the band from six to 10 years. Eight members have been there 11 to 15 years. Another five members have been there 16 to 20 years, and almost 20 percent of the band has been there for 20-40 years,” he said.
Neiman said he believes band members think of themselves as having joined a family and that is a reason they continue for years.
The band practices 11 months out of the year to prepare about 180 selections for summer performances. Each rehearsal lasts at least two hours.
The band is supported by the Medina Community Band Association.
“It’s really a huge honor and a huge responsibility to conduct this talented group. It makes me work harder every year to pick music that my band will love playing and that the audience will love listening to. I take it very seriously. It’s not a part-time job; it’s a part of who I am,” Neiman said.