The Penticton Concert Band has snowballed under the direction of its current musical director Gerald Nadeau, so he’s leaving some big shoes to fill with the unfortunate task of replacing him.
“The person taking it over can look at it two ways: he or she’s got a thing that is running wild right now – which is good, but on the other hand, it’s a lot to keep running,” he said. “I hope the person that fills the role can keep it going.”
The band has begun searching for a new director and potential candidates have shown interest, though the selection process won’t begin until next month, as the band is currently on break for the summer.
After spending the majority of his career in Eastern Canada, Nadeau first joined the band eight years ago. It was called the Penticton Academy of Music Community Concert Band at that time, and he said there were only seven or eight active members. That number has since grown to 35 to 40 members.
“Not only are there far more members, but the people in it are very committed to the band.”
It was within his first two years that the band outgrew their space at the Academy of Music and branched off.
“I decided I was getting a little bit too big for the academy of music; we couldn’t fit in their room, places to practice, equipment and stuff like that, so we became the Penticton Concert Band, with a board of directors, bank account – stuff like that.”
He was proud to say how the band became self-sufficient (with the support of sponsors) under his leadership, and that there are still three or four members who were originally part of the academy.
“It has grown a lot, but specifically it has grown in quality – the musicians just blew my mind away.”
He said the South Okanagan’s allure for retirees made it much easier to recruit talent from the area.
“Musicians come from all over Canada to retire here; a lot of retired military bandsmen who spent their lives playing in the military band.”
Similarly, Nadeau himself brought an abundance of talent to share with the valley at an older age. He decided he wanted to be a musician while in college in his home province of New Brunswick.
He said that as he was finishing up college, he was able to audition for a full-time concert band that the RCMP was forming.
“I applied, got through auditions and played in band for almost nine years.”
During his time with the RCMP concert band, he enrolled to study music at McGill University in Montreal. He later furthered his musical studies at the University of Toronto, where he became a conductor, instructor, and he’s still on faculty for the royal conservatory of music.
“I’m still teaching private lessons,” he said. “It’s hard to retire 100 per cent, you still need something to do.”
He said his musical skill set has always focused around the concert band format because of its dynamic range.
“Outside of a symphony, that’s the biggest instrument you can handle – it has so many shades to it, so many different things you can do with it.”
Throughout his decades of artistic growth, he compared concert bands to the game of golf.
“The better you get, the better you want to get, and the better you can get. There’s absolutely no end to it,” he said. “Music is part of a soul; a person’s soul is never the same two days in a row. Physically we’re never the same two days in a row. So you put 40 people together and it makes it all very different every day.”
In all of his experiences around the country, he said the heart of music remains constant.
“The biggest difference is the weather and the people themselves,” he said.
“Very warm people in the Okanagan. It takes a few years to get used to; people saying hello to you at a cash register at the grocery store, which does not happen too much in the big city.”
Nadeau said his retirement is due to a serious health matter, and he’d keep going if he could.
“That’s life. Health stops you when you don’t expect it.”
He said the new director will have a responsibility to build the band up further, and more importantly, to keep it fun.
“The new director will not be starting at zero, it’s a monster already.”