RUTHERFORD, N.J. — A community band is carrying on a nearly 75-year tradition of music in Rutherford following the death of longtime conductor Ray Heller in September.
Heller, was 86, "was very encouraging," said percussionist Tom Monroe, the Rutherford Community Band president. "Everyone just loved Ray.”
Monroe's father, Tom "Doc" Monroe, launched the band in 1941. Bill M. Hutzel was the second conductor, followed by Heller in 1963.
Conductors Matthew Favaro and Don Rolle now carry the baton.
The band's itinerary includes a Nov. 28 tree lighting followed by a Dec. 11 tree lighting at Rutherford High School. Then there's a Dec. 19 concert at the borough senior center.
Monroe looked to Heller as a mentor who helped him learn the music. The late conductor would often check in by phone with various members of the band, and solicit for additional members, he said.
“He was a great communicator. He always emphasized practice," Monroe said.
Band members are looking forward to a May 13, 2016 celebration, when they will honor Heller while observing the group's 75th anniversary.
The nearly 50-member band includes chief percussionist Edith Hill, a member since she was 12. Others, such as Monroe, only joined in the past few years.
New members are always welcome.
“It’s a music education for adults as well as children,” Monroe said.