The concert that was 25 years in the making graced the Jordan Vocational High School auditorium stage Saturday afternoon. The Bob Barr Community Band never sounded better to me than when it played its Silver Anniversary Concert. The audience loved it and so did I.
The are a number of reasons for that. Top of the list has to be that its conductor, Fred Catchings, is a lot like the man for whom the band is named. Retired educator Jimmy Motos, who plays clarinet and emcees the concerts, told me that, and he should know, because he played in a Bob Barr JVHS band. “He rehearses the same way. You keep doing it until you get it right.” Catchings is a retired U.S. Army band director. His last assignment was as commander of the Fort Benning band. How fitting. Bob Barr was stationed at Fort Benning when, in 1946, he took the job at Jordan. He wasn’t an army band director, though. He was an Officer’s Candidate School instructor during World War II.
Another reason the Bob Barr Community Band plays so well is that it has talented musicians from all walks of life. Most live in the Columbus area, but some will travel a hundred miles or more to play in the band. One of the talented musicans is Adam Mitchell, who is now director of the Jordan Band. His band recently was awarded superior ratings.
Since I was a member of the first Bob Barr band at Jordan, I was called on to make a few remarks. I told the audience about how I joined the Jordan band in 1945, which was a year before Robert M. Barr took over. The director of that quite small band was a student. Not only did he direct the band, but he played first clarinet and football. “You can play drums, right.” Fellow classmate Wallace Helton, who convinced me to join, had told him that.
“Well, yes, but I can’t read music.”
“You’ll fit right in. None of our drummers can read music.”
After Bob Barr, the band’s first paid full-time director, took over in 1946, he let me know that drummers would have to be able to read music. He also told me that I was going to teach them. I couldn’t read music, and I had to teach them. Well, you didn’t tell Mr. Barr “no.” I would learn a lesson from a percussion textbook one day and teach it to the other drummers the next day. It worked. We learned to read drum music. In no time at all some of them could read it better than I could. Oh, well.
Mr. Barr – all his former students still call him Mr. Barr – took that 17-piece band and in six months time had it up to about 60 members and, it went from playing the really simple “Military Escort” march to Beethoven’s “Eroica.” Over the years it got so good it won contests and played concerts all over the country.
He didn’t just teach music, he also took a personal interest in his band kids. He connected me with WDAK radio announcer Ed Snyder who became my mentor and helped me get my first job in broadcasting.
I can’t think of a better tribute to him than for our community band to proudly wear his name, especially since that band plays so well. It’s next concert is for Arts in the Park on May 18th at 4 p.m. in the Werecoba Park band shell. Be advised that the band shell does not provide the excellent acoustics that you get in the Jordan High auditorium.