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A season for Santa, not Sousa

The Hometown Band strikes up the yuletide odes for Christmas.

Even during cookie season, one of the workingest bands on the island typically doesn’t see a lick of dough.

“Nobody gets paid, not even me,” Jas Linford said. “We all do it for the love of the music and the love of each other, and the camaraderie.”

Linford, conductor of the all-volunteer Hometown Band for 20 years of its quarter-century existence, points out that while audiences may associate the band with the Fourth of July and Christmas, in fact they play around 30 concerts the whole year through at public gatherings, civic events and private functions.

In spring comes the Folklife Festival, which they’ve participated in every year save three since 1987.

They start the Oktoberfest circuit in September and October, at venues like the Silver City Brew Pub and even the island’s own Pizza Factory.

“Those aren’t very well publicized,” Linford said, “but we get a free pizza out of it.”

For it holiday concerts, including Tuesday evening’s performance at Bethany Lutheran Church with the Bethany Brass, the band generally starts with a Chanukah number then moves into Christmas favorites like “Winter Wonderland,” “Sleigh Ride” and “O Holy Night.”

This year, they’ll add “Waltz of the Flowers” from the Nutcracker Suite – a number Linford says they’ve been practicing for years but never performed until now.

Lest one confuse the 50-plus member Hometown Band with other local groups like, say, the Intensely Vigorous Dixieland Band, Linford graciously points out that there’s a large amount of overlap among all the area bands and orchestras, with many members straddling multiple groups at a time.

He himself plays in the Bainbridge Symphony Orchestra, as have many of the Hometown Band’s wind players. Some members play in the Bremerton Symphony, and others in the Bethany Lutheran Brass.

So Linford and other conductors try to mindfully coordinate concerts so that no band ends up pulling too many people out of another.

“I try to make rehearsals a fun time,” he adds. “We are a community band, so I can’t chew on people because if I chew on them too much, they don’t show up.”

On the occasions that the band does collect a token fee for its services, the money goes straight back into the organization for essentials like instruments, sheet music and, recently, the snazzy red folders that help them look polished. Those costs are always nice to defray – Linford was amazed to find out that a music folder cost $8.

Beyond that, the band needs very little in the way of compensation; their hometown gigs come from their home-grown hearts, and playing lively tunes for appreciative audiences serves as its own reward.

“As long as they feed us, we’re okay,” Linford said.

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Hark the brass

The Hometown Band, under the direction of Jas Linford, will perform holiday favorites and Christmas carols with the Bethany Brass at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at Bethany Lutheran Church. Also look for them on the 5:30 Bainbridge-to-Seattle ferry run on Dec. 18 along with other performances around Kitsap. For a complete listing, go to www.hometownband.org.

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