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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

GARY SIEGEL, LEFT, has a love of music shared by son Max and father Lee.

This Band Is Family

By Jeanne Sager
CALLICOON CENTER — August 4, 2006 – There are no notches in the wood, no hash marks with scribbled numbers – but the Siegel family has marked the passage of time by the bandstand in Callicoon Center.
Wife, mom, daughter-in-law Judy Siegel has been coming every Wednesday night in the summer for 22 years – they call her the newcomer on the block.
Her husband Gary began blowing his horn in the community band 34 years ago.
At the time, he was still grabbing rides with parents Lee and Marjorie Siegel, who don’t miss a performance.
Seven years ago, Lee brought his 1937 clarinet onstage and joined the band.
Finally retired from business in Livingston Manor and politics in the Town of Rockland, the Siegel patriarch found time to enjoy the simple act of making music.
The two were joined in 2006 by 14-year-old Max Siegel, Gary’s son and the “real” new kid on the block.
Max’s iPod rocks with Fallout Boy and the All American Rejects – a far cry from the Sousa marches and German polkas that are the staples of a Callicoon Center Band concert.
But, he said, he wanted to spend more time making music with his grandfather.
He remembers bringing his chair to the concerts as a little boy, setting it up on the lawn and asking Judy, “Is it over, yet?”
“I would go as many times as I could across the street to get candy,” Max recalled.
As Gary said, Judy splits the years in her mind by the summers spent with Georgia and Max sitting on her lap as her feet danced to the music, the Wednesday evening spent with one eye on her husband in the bandstand and the other on the kids running around the lawn, and the later years when she was trying to convince two teenagers to come along for band night.
“For the last couple years, it’s not that I didn’t have the time to do it, but I didn’t really want to have the time to do it,” Max confessed.
In those days the concert that lasts each Wednesday from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. dragged on interminably – “It felt like four hours,” he said with a laugh.
Sitting on the dais, playing his trumpet, Max said the time flies by.
He’s not ready to climb down at 9 p.m., not ready to turn the music off and head back into a teenage summer.
His dad said the Callicoon Center Band becomes a part of its members.
“I’ve spent almost every Wednesday night for 34 years here,” Gary explained. “And to have Dad and to have Max in the band . . . to experience it all together . . . it’s a beautiful thing.”
Gary was the one who introduced the family to the Callicoon Center Band in the way that Lee introduced the family to music.
Lee took up the saxophone when he was in the eighth or ninth grade because, he said with an impish grin, “I had a very pretty teacher.”
By his junior year, Lee had his heart set on pursuing a degree in music, and he switched to the clarinet.
At the time, orchestral music pieces rarely incorporated the sax, and there was no call for a saxophone major.
Lee went off to Ithaca College to study music, but the United States government came calling, and he left college to join the Army.
During the war, Lee played in the Army band.
He came home to Livingston Manor, married Marjorie, and gave up his music career.
But both of Gary’s parents loved music – and they instilled that love in their son.
Lee’s sister, Annie, began teaching Gary to play the piano at 5. When he was in fourth grade, he took up the trumpet and became quite proficient.
By the time he was 12, Manor music teacher Jim Newton was sure he saw a talent worthy of playing on a more public stage.
Newton, who is now the Callicoon Center Band director, volunteered to drive Gary to the 10 weeks of band rehearsals required before the 10 weeks of concerts.
His parents agreed, and they took over the chauffeuring when the concerts began in late June.
Gary’s played every summer since, even during his own time studying music in Ithaca.
Now a music teacher in Liberty, he’s missed a few rehearsals and a few concerts – Newton gave him a special dispensation during his college years. (It’s a “bone of contention” for Lee, who gently ribs his son with the comment, “I make every rehearsal!”)
The musicians who have come and gone, the changes in Callicoon Center, the Siegel family has watched it all.
At one time, they allowed the players to bring drinks up into the bandstand, Gary recalled.
“The Tumble Inn was across the street, and you’d tumble in and at the end you’d tumble off!” he said with a laugh.
There was a deaf member in the band at one point, a saxophonist who had no teeth but gave it his all.
These days Newton runs a tight ship, and the quality of the band has vastly improved.
The kids are required to make a 20-week commitment – no skipping out on rehearsals to play soccer, one proviso that’s kept Max from joining in years past.
The music hasn’t changed much – Lee gets a kick out of playing songs he’s heard and played since childhood.
And the constant in the lives of the Siegel family are the Wednesday nights of the summer.
Ask Judy what they’re like, and she smiles.
“The same as they’ve been for 22 years.”
Even More a Family Affair
The Siegels aren’t the only family to celebrate three generations of musicians in the Callicoon Center Band.
Bob Smith shares the stage with son Gordon, grandchildren Paul, Alex, Stephanie and Sarah, and Paul’s wife Amy.
The Hankins family got involved courtesy of Jim Newton as well.
After retiring from the Livingston Manor Central School District, Newton was convinced to take a post teaching music at the East Ridge School.
Bob and Gordon Smith were both teaching there as well – sharing the science and math instructional duties.
Bob, who has been playing the trumpet since his youth, said he’s tried to “infect” the rest of his family with a love of music.
With a strong musical program at the East Ridge School, that wasn’t hard.
The school has a fife and drum corps and bluegrass group which travel not just the county but the country to perform.
“It’s all thanks to Jim,” Gordon noted. “He started with a few students, and that went well . . . then he asked for a few more . . . then he said, ‘I want every student in the school!’”
Naturally, that included most of the Smith children, who, with the exception of 25-year-old Paul, are all in their teens.
Paul plays the tuba, and he was asked in 2000 to join his father and grandfather on the stage in Callicoon Center.
Other members of the Smith clan have slowly trickled into the membership, with 16-year-old Sarah signing up just this year.
Alex, 18, considers it “an accomplishment to be considered good enough to be in it.”
“It was kind of a privilege,” said 17-year-old Stephanie Anderson. “And I inherited a love for Sousa from my grandfather!”
Bob started listening on an old Edison that had to be cranked to get the music playing – and he revels in the chance to play old music with his young grandchildren.
“It carries on a tradition,” he said.
The Smiths don’t mind giving up their Wednesdays to play free concerts.
“We just know Wednesday nights are devoted,” Amy explained.
“It’s kind of a given you’re going to be here!” Gordon added.

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