Although the American Legion Community Band has only
been around since 1986, the idea for a community band in the Front Royal area
began about 20 years earlier at a Fourth of July celebration in Browntown, a
small community about seven miles south of Front Royal.
Vern Stollings, a Browntown resident, felt
that Browntown's Fourth of July celebration needed music so he and three
others decided to form a small band for the day. They practiced for the
big day and when it arrived, they marched in the parade as a four-piece
band and played patriotic music. The celebration was a big success.
Bill Nuernberg, a Front Royal resident and member
of the American Legion Post #53, happened to hear Vern make a wish that day.
He wished that Front Royal could have a community band. Bill never forgot those
Vern talked to many people about forming a
community band but no one seemed to think it could work. He even spoke
to Harry Parker, the high school band director at the time, but Harry felt
there wasn't enough interest in the town. Vern died in 1981 and never saw
his dream become a reality.
The idea for a community band existed only
as a wish until one day in 1986 Bill Nuernberg happened to have a conversation
with John Russell, the current band director at the high school in Front
Royal. Bill mentioned Vern's idea for a community band and John responded
with something like this: "I was just waiting for someone to ask."
John and his wife Melinda, also a music teacher,
contacted their friend Ed Richards, the band director at Randolph-Macon
Academy in Front Royal, and the three of them began forming the band. Ed
supplied the band room at R-MA for rehearsals and around 35 people showed
up for the first practice. They discovered there were many people in the
local area who were just waiting for the opportunity to play in a community
Bill Nuernberg arranged to take on the community
band as a project for the American Legion Post #53. The post donated $500
to form the band and has been sponsoring it ever since. Thanks to the Giles
B. Cook Post #53 the band doesn't have to worry about finances. All concerts
are free and open to the public.
The American Legion Community Band in Front
Royal has become a tradition and no public celebration would be complete
without it. Its biggest event is the annual Independence Day celebration
at the Northern Va. 4-H Center in Front Royal.