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History, love of music tie group's members together; Playing in Akron Community Band is family affair for many

The notes of thousands of musical scores have sounded from the instruments of multiple generations of families who have played with the Akron Community Band, now in its 89th summer concert season.

And almost every one of those musicians has at least one thing in common: They have played alongside trumpeter Robert Anderson, who is celebrating 75 years with the band.

Anderson, now 86, joined the band at age 11 and never looked back.

"I began taking lessons at age 9 and studied with Lester Remsen of Akron, who was a cornet player," said Anderson.

Remsen, who directed the band in the late '40s and early '50s, eventually moved to Hollywood, where he founded the Los Angeles Brass Society. A music educator, he also was cornet soloist with the U.S. Marine Band and played first trumpet with the Buffalo and Los Angeles philharmonic orchestras.

Anderson, a retired engineer with Carborundum Co., and band director James F. Gerber, a retired music teacher with the Alden School District, note that Akron always has held music in high esteem. There has been a community band since 1850, a year after the village's founding.

"Early on, they were called silver cornet bands," said Anderson, referring to the small brass bands popular across America, especially in the 1880s.

In the band's early years, "about 25 musicians would play atop an elevated stand in Russell Park," Anderson said. Now a large gazebo accommodates the band in the historic park on Main Street for the free Friday concerts in July and August.

The band, which also performs some Wednesday evenings in Alden Firemen's Park, is financed by the towns of Newstead and Alden and the Village of Akron.

Gerber, band director for 45 years, said his "top-notch, talented" band "has always received tremendous support from the community."

The Alden resident said his heart belongs to his native Akron. And his band connections, too, are deep-rooted.

Gerber's 54-year membership began when he was 14, and Charles Silvernail, then a custodian for Akron Central Schools, invited him to play. Silvernail, a drummer, is still a band member at age 75. The Town of Alabama resident also plays with three other community bands.

Gerber, who plays the oboe and English horn, "and some bassoon," has also been an associate conductor of the Maitland (Fla.) Symphony Orchestra.

The connections of band members, who range in age from 12 to 86, would fill multiple family trees.

Anderson's wife, Coralyn, and their daughter, Kristen MacCoy, both used to play saxophone with the band.

In another example of the band's kinship, four members have a combined 208 years of service. Ken Kasperek plays lead trumpet; wife Marilyn and their daughter, Karlyn Kasperek, both play flute and piccolo; and Marilyn's mother, Jane B. Downey, is still playing the drums at age 80.

There are no formal tryouts. Members, who come from across Western New York, join through invitation or recommendation by music instructors, primarily with the Akron, Alden and Lancaster school systems.

The band begins rehearsals in May, practicing for two hours every Wednesday at Akron Central High School.

Rehearsals and the summer concerts "are challenging," said Anderson, noting, "We play 16 to 18 selections for each concert; a mixture of classical and show tunes, things with wide audience appeal."

The coda for this community band is its love of music and commitment to sharing it with others.

"You do it for the love of it," Anderson said.

e-mail: citydesk@buffnews.com