With some timely fundraising, musicians with the Sequim City Band may be getting a bit more elbow space for practices.
The group of musicians that hail from across the Olympic Peninsula are looking to put the finishing touches on “Fund the Finale,” a capital campaign to raise about $1 million to construct an extended rehearsal space at Swisher Hall, part of the James Center for Performing Arts.
Vicky Blakesley, a spokesperson for the band, said the organization has raised about 80 percent of its fundraising goal through grants from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust ($300,000) and Department of Commerce’s ArtsFund ($250,000), from private donations ($225,000) and pledges ($27,000).
“The majority of private donations and pledges are from band members,” Blakesley noted.
With the initial budget being listed at $1,011,000 for construction. Blakesley said the group would need to raise another $200,000 to create the structure, with other funds needed for items such as chairs.
The band has set up a faundraising page with more details at sequimcityband.org/?page_id=708.
Band representatives announced its capital campaign at their “Together Again” concert on Aug. 22 but didn’t want to make a public request for community support until they had the bulk of fundraising in hand, she said.
Since 2005, when the band’s donation of the James Center to the City of Sequim was completed, the band has rehearsed in the small one-story building at the south side of the outdoor stage.
Swisher Hall — a 1,500-square-foot-space — was meant as a storage space for file cabinets containing sheet music and percussion equipment and working area for the music librarian, band members say.
And while the space could comfortably accommodate 35 musicians, the band already numbered 40 members in 2005. Most years the band boasts more than 50 musicians, and numbered 70 members at its summer 2021 concert.
While the group was able to rehearse outdoors for that performance, band members for much of the year struggle to rehearse in the current rehearsal room, battling noise issues and lack of air conditioning.
“Most band members use ear plugs specifically designed for musicians to protect their hearing during rehearsals because the rehearsal room is suboptimal in its acoustical properties, having a 12-foot flat ceiling,” Blakesley said.
Over the years, the band’s board of directors has set aside money to fund feasibility studies when it became apparent a larger rehearsal space would be needed.
“It has become obvious that all of these musicians and instruments can no longer ‘squeeze’ into Swisher Hall,” Blakesley said. While the band was on the pandemic hiatus, the band’s board of directors spent the past 18 months examining the alternatives for an expanded rehearsal space.
In June 2021, the board picked Roy Hellwig of Tormod Hellwig, LLC to develop the project concept, initial plans and a construction budget, and Steve Zenovic was selected as project leader.
New look, more space
The rehearsal space, Blakesley said, is planned to be acoustically designed for a large musical group — specifically, it will have a 20-foot ceiling — as well as an air conditioning system.
“Rehearsal space helps a community band flourish. The time spent in the rehearsal room brings a high level of enjoyment to community musical ensembles such as the Sequim City Band,” said Jonathan Pasternak, conductor and music director of the Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra and guest trombonist and percussionist for the Sequim City Band, in highlighting his thoughts about the importance of an adequate rehearsal space in his biopic on the band’s web page.
“The physical space can help expand psychological space and comfort to the experience of making music, which transforms again when the audience hears the music,” he said.
In partnership with the City of Sequim — despite its name, the Sequim City Band is not affiliated with the municipality — the band will pay for construction of the rehearsal building and then transfer ownership to the city in exchange for a long-term use lease.
Blakesley said there are still more steps to take with the city regarding permitting and the lease agreement, but that as of last week those discussions look promising.
Musicians in the Sequim City Band who perform multiple free concerts hail from across the Olympic Peninsula, from Forks to Port Hadlock and all locations in between. The band frequently hosts other nonprofit musical groups annually, such as the Port Townsend Summer Band, local high school wind ensembles and Navy Band Northwest.
“It’s (music) a universal language that everyone understands,” said Bob Golightly, a clarinetist with the band for 23 years who highlighted the importance of live music in Sequim in his biopic on the band’s website.
“It’s apolitical, pulling people together, rather than dividing them,” he said.
The band also supports younger musicians and invites high school students to join and participate in the public concerts.
The Sequim City Band has a scholarship program for young players who plan to continuing playing music while they pursue a college degree.
In addition to the free public concerts, the band supports and performs at other community events, including downtown Christmastime concerts, Music in the Park in Sequim and Music on the Pier in Port Angeles, the Senior Holiday luncheon and more.
The band also has small group ensembles that have performed at smaller venues such as Clallam County Fair, various assisted living facilities and the U.S. Coast Guard Station Port Angeles.
Representatives of the Sequim City Band have offered to speak to groups about this project; connect with the band via the “Contact” tab on the band’s webpage at sequimcityband.org or leave a voicemail at 360-207-4722.
The Sequim City Band is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization for the purpose of taxable deductions.