Get serious. Play music. Enjoy. That is the mantra of the director of the County Line Community Band, Toby Knight.
In San Antonio, Bexar County and the surrounding areas there is a vibrant community music scene that most people don’t know about. Like an underground conduit of fantastic music, the people who make up these organizations are as vast as the music they perform.
Toby Knight is set apart from most directors due to his efforts to perform innovative concerts that strike the listener with emotion, pride and inspiration. Being the director of the County Line Community Band is “The best seat in the house,” remarks Knight.
There are more than a dozen community bands in this area and Toby Knight has set his band apart like a phoenix rising from the ashes of mediocrity. He has done this through his innovative performances, collaborations, community support and keeping a keen eye on the future of community music in the San Antonio and surrounding areas.
Knight’s first love lies in our veterans and Texas. He grew up in San Antonio and spent 26 years in the Army as a musician and deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. He shows this love by performing concerts that honor them both.
In 2016 he took the County Line Community Band to the Texas State Capitol to perform an ingenious concert titled “Remember the Alamo.” He researched and arranged the exact bugle call that General Santa Anna had played prior to storming the Alamo titled, “El Deguello,” and other music that would have been played at the time of the siege. It was a smashing success.
He has also established concerts to honor veterans who have fought and died for our freedoms. From his WWI centennial concert, to a D-Day Remembrance concert, the St. Hedwig American Legion Memorial Day ceremony and supporting the La Vernia Historical Societies Veterans memorial dedication, Toby has ensured that veterans are honored in a way commensurate with their sacrifice, through music.
“They really make our ceremony special,” remarks John Hafner, the Commander of the American Legion in St. Hedwig.
Last year he collaborated with nationally renowned, and local composer, Charles Booker to debut Charles’ new composition with the Professor of Saxophone at UTSA, Dr. Rami El-Farrah. This concert was performed as a joint endeavor with the San Antonio Community Chamber Wind Ensemble on the campus of Texas A&M University – San Antonio.
Mr. Booker noted, “They “did a wonderful job and it was great conducting such a fine group of musicians.”
Knight’s most innovative concert was a joint performance with the famed 323rd Army Band from Fort Sam Houston. This concert honored the sacrifices of the men who landed on the beaches of Normandy 75 years ago. Charles Booker composed a new piece for this occasion that debuted at this concert titled “Undaunted Courage.” The commanding General of the US Army North attended and was almost moved to tears.
“No other community band in San Antonio is doing what we are doing,” said Todd Phillips, the President of the CLCB.
Supporting local communities is another innovation that Mr. Knight has spearheaded. The CLCB takes great pride in performing in local parades while riding on their trailer, or supporting the American Legion in St. Hedwig during their Memorial Day ceremony. The La Vernia Historical Association raised funds to construct a veterans memorial in the city park and the CLCB provided music for the dedication ceremony.
“They are marvelous,” said Elaine Mazurek Stephens, the president of the La Vernia Historical Association.
Due to their community support, the CLCB was awarded a grant by the Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative to purchase a much needed trailer to store and transport the band’s equipment. This enables the band to support even more communities and their initiatives.
None of this is sustainable without keeping a keen eye on the future. Toby has established numerous relationships with fellow non-profits and community arts organizations that will eventually lead to new and innovative performances that will enhance the experience of the communities they serve. For the upcoming year he has programmed a spring concert that will feature amazing local soloists and he will be working with the Wilson County School of Ballet for an innovative rendition of the “Nutcracker Suite.”
Throughout all of this he has established and continues to recruit younger musicians in their “young musicians program.” Designed to incorporate younger musicians into the CLCB, this program allows more experienced musicians to mentor and help younger musicians to learn the art of performing on their instrument. This ”apprenticeship” type of relationship facilitates the learning of new styles, techniques and musicianship skills that are just not taught in a public school environment.
In the end, it is the support of the community that is critical to the success of any community band. The CLCB is a 501c3 nonprofit and all of its revenue comes from donations. This enables the band to offer all of its performances for free. Attending one of their concerts allows you to enjoy wonderful music and, in this case, an innovative performance that you won’t see anywhere else. So get serious about enjoying the music of the CLCB and don’t forget to have fun!
You can visit the County Line Community Band website at: www.clcbtx.com, or follow them on Facebook.