The common thread of music

LAFAYETTE — Gerald Guilbeaux, who has been a member of the Lafayette Concert Band since its inception in 1982, knows a thing or two about directing a concert band. In his time, Guilbeaux has learned how to handle the many personalities and lead those 80 voices into making one beautiful sound.

Guilbeaux said conducting is a very different experience.

“Conducting is a thrilling experience because you create in rehearsals a specific sound of the ensemble, you interpret the music, and hopefully it’s reflected that the audience enjoys it,” Guilbeaux said. “As a playing member, you’re directly involved in that. But you’re following the interpretation of the conductor.”

A former high school band director, Guilbeaux compared music to sports. In baseball, a player with a .300 batting average is considered good. Musicians have to hit well above that, in the 99 percentile.

At clinics for high school bands, Guilbeaux asks the young players to miss every fourth note to display to the parents what their child is doing is important.

“You have to focus on this,” he said. “When you play and miss every four notes, they understand that really is bad. We have to focus on the individual musician on playing those notes. That’s what rehearsal’s all about. You have to have the discipline to have everybody thinking on the same wavelength.”

For most of the members, rehearsal and shows are an escape. If the member isn’t from an area high school, that person has a day job, which can range from computer programmer to construction worker.

“The makeup is of every walk of life, and the common thread is the music,” Guilbeaux said. “I’ll just look around, the trumpet section, for example. There’s a band director, construction manager, geologist, an I.T. guy with a medical company.

“They’re not all professional musicians. The bottom line is people enjoy the therapy of coming to rehearsal and letting their brain operate differently.”

The formula has worked. For more than three decades, LCB has been entertaining the community with a pleasurable selection of music. With each season, the band has gone through numerous changes, dealt with punches and is still moving, more successful than ever.

“We all tend to take things for granted, stuff like the Atchafalaya Basin that other people who come here, go ‘Oh wow, look at this,’ ” Guilbeaux said. “We’re fortunate to have a community band of this stature.

“In 1999, we received the international Sudler Silver Scroll. There are only 41 or 42 bands that have gotten that. The caliber of this band is quite good. The community supports us. We sold over 600 season tickets last year. It was our best year. We’re hoping we can maintain that level.”