By Ted Waddell
CALLICOON CENTER August 2, 2002 Jim Newton, musical director of the Callicoon Center Band, struck a high note on Wednesday night as he was honored for 25 years as conductor.
When former director Ray shaara was stricken by a stroke in 1977, Newton was asked to step up from the pit, put down his French horn and take over the directorship of the local town band.
Over the years, the Callicoon Center Band has grown by leaps and bounds. For ten consecutive summertime Wednesday evenings starting promptly at 8 p.m., Callicoon Center is the place to be as musicians strike up the band.
During the July 31 performance before a crowd of several hundred, band president Allan Sommer presented a specially embroidered band leaders jacket to Newton in recognition of his quarter of a century as director.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of our directors leadership of the Callicoon Center Band, he said. Before that, he had been a member of the band for several years and had an outstanding reputation as music director at Livingston Manor School. He was much respected by our former leader . . . and when Ray had to step down, we were greatly blessed when Jim accepted the leadership.
Sommer started playing in the Callicoon Center Band at the age of 11 and for the past 60 years has been drumming up a storm.
Years back, we didnt have that many musicians turn out for rehearsals, he recalled. Last week, somebody said they counted 45-46 in the band . . . its just a-growin!
Jim Newton has done a tremendous job, added Sommer. Hes very musical and has a way about him that attracts some very good musicians to our little town band.
Asked what it was like to direct the Callicoon Center Band for 25 summer seasons, Newton replied, Its wonderful . . . the people who volunteer to play here are just great. Its a great mixture of kids, young adults and senior citizens, and the crowd makes it all worth while.
This is the place to be on a Wednesday night, he added.
Jim Newtons plans for the next 25 years?
I always tell people that the only way to get out of this band is feet first, he said with an ear-stretching grin that lit up the stage on a clear summers night.