Curvin “Chip” Farnham just isn’t the retiring type.
After almost a half-century of teaching and conducting throughout the Greater Bangor area, Farnham is retiring from the University of Maine at Orono, where he’s been since 1986.
Well, maybe “retiring” is too strong a term. He’s now the new conductor for the Bangor Band, one of the oldest community bands in the nation. He replaces Dr. Fred Goldrich, who conducted the band for the past five years.
The 68-year-old Hampden resident started rehearsing with his latest band in late September. He’s enjoyed the experience in the short time they’ve been together.
“It’s a wonderful group of people,” he said during a recent interview. “They’ve been warm and welcoming to me.”
The Bangor Band position is the latest in Farnham’s storied career, which began when he came to Bangor in 1962 to attend the Northern Conservatory of Music. His first job out of school was at Brewer Junior High, then after one year, he moved up to Brewer High School, where he stayed for 13 years. Next came seven years at Hampden Academy, where he also taught at Winterport. Then he moved to the University of Maine, his home for the last 26 years.
“All three places were wonderful places to teach,” he said. “I enjoyed all three places.”
Most recently he served as a professor at the university, where he’s teaching courses in instrumental music education and conducting at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He also served as of the University of Maine Symphonic Band for 25 years and was Director of Bands for 18 years.
Farnham received his B.M. in Music Education from the Northern Conservatory of Music and did his graduate work at the Vandercook College of Music in Chicago. He has studied conducting with Richard Castiglione, formerly of the Boston Conservatory, and Anthony Maiello, director of instrumental studies at George Mason University.
He is past president of the Maine Music Educators Association. In 1985 he was elected to the American School Band Directors Association, and in 1990 he became a member of Pi Kappa Lambda. In the spring of 2001, he was recognized as Music Educator of the Year by the Maine Music Educators Association.
Farnham appears throughout the United States and Canada as a clinician, adjudicator ,and conductor and has guest conducted at several national and international festivals. In the spring of 2009, he was guest conductor of the DoDDS / Europe Honor Band in Wiesbaden, Germany, and conducted the University of Maine Symphonic Band at Symphony Hall in Boston. He hopes to continue guest conducting during his “retirement.”
Now he’s taking on his first role as the conductor of a community band. He saw the opportunity as a natural transition for him.
“As a teacher, you hope that your students are going to continue playing instruments after school,” he said. “This fits right in with that goal that I’ve always had for my students.”
He doesn’t see much difference between conducting a group of students and a band of citizens.
“Any time you get on the podium, you’re teaching,” Farnham said. “You’re always treating the musicians with respect, because you’re appreciating the amount of time they’re giving to the ensemble.”
Farnham has been pleased with the amount of talent that he’s found in the Bangor Band, which ranges in age from high-school students to senior citizens. “I’m very impressed with the musicianship of the group as a whole, and its balance,” he said. “They have a real desire to play and to play well.”
An important role for a conductor is selecting a band’s repertoire. Several factors go into the choices of music.
“It has to be something that is right for the band and that is also right for the audience,” Farnham explained.
As an example, he pointed to his selection of Richard Rodgers’ music composed for the TV series “Victory at Sea,” which the band will play at a Veteran’s Day concert to be held Nov. 12 at Cole’s Land Transportation Museum in Bangor.
The band will perform in its annual Holiday Concert at 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 16 at the Bangor Civic Center, before taking a winter break until the first Tuesday practice in February.
The band currently has about 50 members, and Farnham would like to see that number go up to around 65. Rehearsals take place at 7-9 p.m., Tuesdays, at the Bangor Parks and Rec Center, 647 Main St., Bangor. Those interested in joining should contact Lori Wingo at 944-4193.
“This is a warm and friendly place for people who want to continue their musical experience,” Farnham said.