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Music become a passion for resident: Community bands perform Sunday

April 14, 2011

David Doolittle's passion for music started at a young age. Now, at 73, he still enjoys making music come alive.

"I enjoy hearing the notes jump off of the page and be pleasing to hear for the audience," said Doolittle, who is a member of the Newton-Conover Community Concert Band and Jazz Band.

Doolittle started in sixth grade playing the clarinet and advanced to the bass clarinet and tenor saxophone in high school. In college, he continued to perform in band and picked up the baritone saxophone, the instrument he plays in the community concert and jazz bands.

"I'm more of a utility player," Doolittle said, adding his position creates extra flavor for the woodwind family's sound.

Doolittle has been a Newton resident for 11 years after retiring from many years of work as a band director, and later as a musical instrument salesman.

"I've always been around music — either teaching or supplying," he said.

Doolittle's roots were planted in North Carolina years ago, but his job took him to Indiana until his retirement. That's when he found music in Newton.

During his years as a band director, Doolittle met Jim Stockner, who at the time, was a percussion major in college participating in a band camp in West Virginia. Doolittle was working in the same band camp as its guest conductor when he met Stockner. The two later worked another band camp together in Rockingham.

"Our paths have crossed many times," said Stockner, of Newton, and current band director for the community concert and jazz bands. "When we were both band directors, we would see each other many times a year.

When he retired from teaching and took a position with a manufacturer, I saw him as an exhibitor (at annual events). I was surprised when one day I got a call and it was Dave. He said he was living in Newton."

After reconnecting, Stocker invited Doolittle to join the Newton-Conover community bands, which perform once a year. This year's performance is at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Newton-Conover High School gymnasium.

"I enjoy the camaraderie and experience of playing with others," Doolittle said.

Doolittle's baritone saxophone is 75 years old and was made in Paris, France. Doolittle said he purchased the instrument in the 1970s from a client in Georgetown, S.C.

"When I bought it, it was in terrible shape," he said. "It wasn't playable. I took it to my repair department to be fixed."

To make the baritone saxophone playable again, about two keys were remade; pads and corks were replaced, as well as the instrument's neck.

The instrument still has its original lacquer, though it is mostly faded.

Before Doolittle joined the community bands, he said the renovated instrument sat for 20 years.

"I don't care what it looks like," he said. "The instrument does have a good sound."

Doolittle, along with other residents in the community bands, have prepared numerous musical pieces for the free community concerts Sunday. Stockner said programmed selections for the jazz band will include hits like “Moon River,” featuring a local favorite performer, Byron Bean performing solo on the trombone. Popular songs from the big band era include “In a Sentimental Mood,” “Take the A Train” and “A String of Pearls.”

NCHS Band Director Haskew Smith will perform a vocal number, “It Had To Be You.” Among other selections will be the popular hit made famous by Ray Charles and written by N.C. native Don Gibson,”I Can't Stop Loving You.”

The concert band program will consist of marches, a Latin American number, serious concert band literature and more.

The concert will also include a trumpet trio feature, “Trumpets Wild,” featuring Sam Choate, Nicky Horner and Joe Elliott. Of course, a band concert is not complete without a march written by march music king John Philip Sousa.

The NCHS gymnasium has a ramp for easy access, and non-bleacher seating will be provided as well. The public is invited to this annual event.

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