A decades-long desire has become a quickly harmonious relationship for Eric Hammer. Musically, that is.
“The first rehearsal was a love-fest,” said Hammer, a University of the Pacific professor. “We had so much fun. I felt good about the start. For years, it was just me. I always thought we needed another level up. Our (Pacific’s) bands are tops among the West. I’ve had this in mind for 20 years.”
Now a reality, New Hammer Concert Band — San Joaquin County’s newest community music group — performs publicly for the first time Sunday at Pacific’s Faye Spanos Concert Hall.
Hammer’s 47 musicians — a blend of Pacific students, teachers and professional players — joins the Stockton and Lodi community bands and the Valley Concert Band in the county’s ample bandland.
When he finally decided in July 2015 that his long-percolating plan would come to fruition, Hammer knew exactly who to contact for assistance.
“It’s so important that people go out and hear and experience band,” said “like-minded” Kaitlin Bove, 29, a music teacher who’s been mentored by Hammer, 65, since she was 14. She's playing flute Sunday. “It’s so much a part of our national experience.
“It provides an opportunity for people to continue musical skills they’ve put a lot of work into. They can get together with like-minded people who have had similar experiences.”
Three of them perform solos: Catherine Ettle, a saxophonist who directs Lincoln High School’s marching band; Jonathan Latta, a percussionist and assistant dean at Pacific’s Conservatory of Music, where he teaches percussion; and Jenna Countryman, a flute player and high school classmate of Bove’s.
The contemporary 70-minute concert’s 10 selections span “The Dam Busters March” (1955) by England's Eric Coates; “A Suite of Suites”; “Apollo Unleashed” (2004) by Los Angeles' Frank Ticheli; and Reno-born Eric Whitacre’s “Godzilla Eats Las Vegas” (2010).
There’s also a riff on Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Fugue in G Minor” (circa 1730s) The band’s wind players perform it using his organ chords.
Hammer is a “magician,” said Bove, who was his teaching assistant at Pacific (2011-12) and handled concert-band logistics for him. “He put the music together. It’s historic, cultural and modern. It makes you laugh and cry. He’s brilliant.”
“It’s rich, rhythmic and colorful,” said Hammer, the conductor who’s a keyboard, trombone, euphonium and tuba player and Pacific’s director of bands. “It’s colorful, rhythmic and melodic. Most of the pieces have a melody you can latch on to.”
After making his band-forming commitment, Hammer — who’s been at Pacific for 24 years — and Bove contacted San Joaquin County and Bay Area musicians, who responded positively within five days.
The roster includes Pacific students and graduates of a nationwide list of colleges and universities. They live in an atlas of communities, from Hollister, Florence, Oregon, and Wheatland to Oakland and San Francisco.
It helped that Hammer was president of the Western College Band Directors National Association for six years.
He also conducted Bove and Countryman in the Diablo Wind Symphony, based the Diablo Valley. That was during the 15 years Hammer, a Pacific graduate, conducted Concord High School’s bands.
Born in Washington, Iowa — “my dad told me he taught me the words to the (University of) Iowa fight song before the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ — Hammer’s aspiration “to be playing for the Golden State Warriors” didn’t develop. “I didn’t have the talent.”
At Fountain Valley High School in 1965, the 6-foot forward became more proficient on piano and low-brass instruments: “I had to make a choice.” No contest.
Dad Bill, a World War II veteran, played saxophone in the University of Iowa band and worked in a button factory. Mom Patricia raised three children and was an insurance manager.
Patricia, Hammer's wife, teaches mathematics at San Joaquin Delta College and daughter Betsy works for the California State Association of Counties.
Bove, preparing to study for a doctorate at Pacific, has returned to Lafayette after teaching a variety of musical subjects for eight years in Payson, Utah. A graduate of Moraga’s Campolindo High School — as is Countryman — she plans on teaching “at the college level.”
Mom Jody is a family counselor and dad Pasquale’s a retired telephone engineer. Her two sisters “quit music as soon as mom let them,” Bove (pronounced “bo-vay”) said. Kaitlin chose Pacific after she was offered a scholarship, and for the “opportunity to work with” Hammer.
She still is: “We started from scratch. We spent a long time on our ideas and discussing our philosophies. A big part is getting (public) schools involved. As a music teacher, I know what would work and what would not.”
“Outreach is import,” Hammer said. Interim Dean Daniel Ebbers has been “supportive of this whole idea of serving the community. It takes a village to raise a good kid and takes us all to make a school what it should be.”
— Contact Tony Sauro at (209) 546-8267 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsaurorecord.