Former Bangor Band leader dies in Maryland

Posted Jan. 22, 2012, at 12:58 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 22, 2012, at 4:51 p.m.
Gordon W. Bowie, former conductor of the Bangor Band, died Jan. 5, 2012 at the age of 67, after a long fight with cancer. This black and white photo was taken in Bangor on July 1, 1992.
Gordon W. Bowie, former conductor of the Bangor Band, died Jan. 5, 2012 at the age of 67, after a long fight with cancer. This black and white photo was taken in Bangor on July 1, 1992. Buy Photo

BANGOR — A former conductor of the Bangor Band and member of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra has died.

Gordon W. Bowie led the community band from 1985 to 1997 and played bass trombone with the symphony for 32 years. He died Jan. 5 of prostate cancer at the age of 67. A memorial service was held Jan. 14 in Bethesda, Md.

Bowie and his wife, Mary Bowie, moved to Washington, D.C., from Bangor in 1997. In addition to conducting the Montgomery Village Community Band in Montgomery Village, Md., he performed with the Virginia Grand Military Band, the National Concert Band of America and the Legacy Brass Quartet. He also worked as copyright examiner in the performing arts division of the U.S. Copyright Office in the Library of Congress.

“He was a fine musician and an excellent conductor,” Lori Wingo, president of the Bangor Band, said Saturday. “He always had high expectations for the band. He was a very demanding conductor but also a teacher for band members.

“Gordon also was a prolific composer,” she added. “Still, to this day, we are playing many of his composed pieces.”

Bowie composed several marches for bands including the “USS Maine,” commissioned for the christening of a Trident submarine., and another for the U.S. Army college in Carlisle, Penn.

“As a musicologist and historian, he put together a definitive piece of work on R.B. Hall, who in the 1880s, saved the [Bangor] band from extinction,” Wingo said. “He really was instrumental in keeping the legacy of Hall alive.”

Hall was the subject of Bowie’s doctoral dissertation, she said. He earned his PhD in music in 1993 from the University of Maine.

After moving to Washington, D.C., Bowie returned to Maine nearly every summer, according to Wingo. When he did, he took the baton and led the Bangor Band. The last time he conducted the band was in the summer of 2009.

“The weather was awful all day,” Wingo said. “It would pour down rain, and then, the sun would come out. We knew Gordon was ill and that this most likely was the last opportunity we’d have for him to conduct us.

“Within two numbers, the sky opened up,” she said. “He was under shelter [in the gazebo located in Paul Bunyan Park] but I was sitting in the pouring rain and felt like a drowned rat. But the look of joy on his face while he was conducting and we played one of his marches made every moment in the rain worth it.”

Bowie’s love of conducting and being part of a band is reflected in the following quote posted on the website for the Montgomery Village Band:

“Think of 65 individuals with a variety of instruments in separate practice rooms doing their own routine. Listen to all of them at once and what cacophony it is! Now take those same 65 talents and place them in a room together with a leader to coordinate and coach. The wonderful band music that results is a very different outcome made possible only by a unified group effort. Every part is important, and every player is important.”

Donations the the Montgomery Village Band in Bowie’s memory may be sent to Montgomery Village Foundation, 10120 Apple Ridge Road, Montgomery Village, Md. 20886. Checks should be made out to the Montgomery Village Foundation with “MVCB/Gordon Bowie Memorial Fund” in the memo line.

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