Greater Huntington Symphonic Band and Jazz Band

Published 1:28 am Monday, December 6, 2021

Genre/Style: Community Band/Jazz

Location: Huntington, West Virginia

How did the project start? The group started in the 1980s as a way to provide a musical outlet for adults who could no longer participate in band after high school and college. The group is made up of volunteer musicians who just want to keep playing their instruments with others. I, Matt Chaffins, took over as conductor in 2018 replacing our longtime conductor Tommy Thompson who remains active with the group. The Jazz Band is conducted by Tom Chaffin (no relation to me), and was started in 2016 to provide another outlet for our members who enjoy playing jazz music as well.

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What are three adjectives to describe your style? Walk us through your creative process. Does it vary, if so, how? I know this won’t answer the question as intended, but the Greater Huntington Symphonic Band is open to all musicians from high school through adult ages. We rehearse Thursdays from 7-8 p.m. at Vinson Middle School’s band room. The jazz band usually rehearses from 8-9 pm.

How has your art evolved since you started? School and community bands have changed a lot since the 1980s. We try to play a variety of music that follows those new trends, but also play classic pieces that pay homage to the rich history of school and community bands in America.

What about being an artist fills your cup? Why should others take interest in the arts? My dayjob is being the band director at Chesapeake Middle School and High School. Being able to share my love of music and teaching students, whether school-aged or adults, to become better musicians is what fills my cup. Others should take an interest in the arts because the arts are part of everything we do and use. I think that the global pandemic has shown how important the arts are. Unfortunately, the arts are often considered non-essential, but the arts have been missed the most. People missed live entertainment. Now that things are returning, people are turning to the arts to find joy and comfort.

Any advice for new or struggling artists? Continue doing whatever it is you are doing. If it is making you happy to create your art, then continue doing it. Life is too short and fleeting to get caught up in trying to do your art for others. Do it for you, your wellbeing, and your soul.

What upcoming project should we look for, and where can we look for it? The Greater Huntington Symphonic Band and Jazz Band typically put on three to four concerts each year. Our next concert will be sometime in April or May. The date, time, and location have not been set yet.