For Hanover Symphony, Longevity Is a Combination of Talent and Community Involvement

By Anya Bochman

Photos courtesy/William Trusheim

The Hanover Wind Symphony (HWS) is a community-based organization that has a straightforward yet powerful mission: bringing music to people and people to music. Having accomplished this goal for nearly 35 years, HWS relies on community support and involvement while showcasing its engaging live performances. While advancing excellence in the wind band tradition, HWS strives to provide growth opportunities for adult musicians who are continuing their musical avocation. The organization’s main goal is cultural enrichment and education of New Jersey music lovers.

The symphony’s inception can very much be traced to the spirit of community; it began as a group of college students and adults performing together at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Florham/Madison campus. However, the music department was disbanded in 1985; the group’s director and founder, Peter Boor, subsequently took the ensemble off campus so that it could continue honing its skills. 

More musicians were recruited into the symphony via newspaper announcements and word-of-mouth. In total, 39 musicians played in the symphony’s debut concert on December 8, 1985 using woodwinds and brass – but no percussion. 

“That made Gustav Holst’s First Suite in Eb for Military Band a little more interesting!” the symphony’s official website states of the performance.

The road to the group’s present-day success was cemented by its talent and community engagement over the years. For it didn’t take very long for HWS to distinguish itself not only as one of very few community-based adult wind bands in New Jersey, but also as an ensemble playing music of the highest caliber. While the average HWS member is a highly gifted musician, most do not come from professional musical backgrounds. Ranging from stay-at-home mothers to computer programmers, the volunteer musicians share an ability to demonstrate professionalism in their desire to both refine their musical skills and showcase their creativity. Today, HWS boasts some 65 to 70 members.

The musicians’ average tenure is 15 years, with one third having tenures of 20 years or more. This sort of longevity is relatively rare in a community-based musical ensemble, and demonstrates the dedication and devotion of the players, as well as the distinctive character of the band.

Dr. William H. Trusheim, Chairman of the Board of the HWS, says that the enduring participation of the band members is one of the more important facets to its continued existence and popularity.

“We have very stable membership, which is something we’re very proud of,” Trusheim said. “Many times an ensemble’s membership will be scrambled, but we have performers who have been with us for 15 or more years.”

HWS is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, which over the years has become the community’s source for live music for celebrations, fundraisers and traditional outdoor concerts. Funding for its performances has been made possible in part by Morris Arts through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Cultural Arts Committee of Hanover Township.

Crucially, the group also works to inspire younger musicians to continue playing long after their formal schooling has ended. As part of the group’s community outreach efforts, HWS regularly engages in free and affordable local concerts, joint programs with public schools, collaboration with local nonprofits and programs for children and families. 

A more recent endeavor that is in keeping with the tradition of outreach is HWS’ music scholarship, first offered in 2017 to enable a gifted student to attend a residential summer music camp. In 2019, HWS expanded the music scholarship program to include both a senior and junior division. The senior division winner, Evelyn Tomaro of Chatham, will be attending the Kinhaven Music Program, while junior division winner Isabelle Mailman of Wayne attended a jazz music camp this summer.

Trusheim says that the involvement of a younger generation through scholarships and masterclasses is imperative to both the mission of accessible live music and the longevity of the HWS.

“Masterclasses are a good way for us to bring music to the next generation – and maybe the students we impacted will become future members [of HWS].”

This sentiment is something the symphony’s music director, Matthew Paterno, echoes. Paterno, of Parsippany, stresses that the HWS is trying to change the unfortunate fact that the majority of high school musicians stop playing instruments upon graduation.

“Hopefully someone walks out of one of our performances with something new they have learned,” Paterno said. “We’re trying to foster a love for music with the younger generation – to show them that music isn’t just a school activity, it is an endeavor for life.”

The Hanover Wind Symphony’s members are from the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area and represent many professional backgrounds. Approximately half are professional music educators and the rest have a diverse set of occupations including business executives, teachers and engineers. All of the musicians are selected by audition – something that Paterno says is crucial not just to the quality of musicianship, but also in ensuring members aren’t overwhelmed by a higher standard of skill. All of HWS’ members are strongly committed to volunteering their time and talents to the group.

“The symphony is 100 percent about making great music; there is no ego involved,” Paterno said. “It’s a very unique group that likes being pushed, which challenges you as a conductor as well.”

Paterno, whose conducting style is described on the official HWS website as “energetic, passionate and uplifting,” has served as the Associate Conductor and Principal Euphonium of the Hanover Wind Symphony from 1998 to 2008. Subsequently, he brought his personal style and musical interpretations to the HWS as the new music director.  

By his own account, Paterno came to music late by professional musician standards, starting in junior high.

“People always tell me, ‘You look like you’re having so much fun!’,” Paterno mused. “That’s really what it’s all about, as an educator.”

Paterno has been an Instrumental Music Teacher, Lead Teacher and Music Coordinator at Wayne Hills High School in Wayne for nearly three decades. He has also been an adjunct faculty member at William Paterson University where he teaches classes in Low Brass Methods and Applied Euphonium as well as coaching the Tuba/Euphonium Ensemble. 

Throughout his professional career, Paterno has gathered a number of accolades. Listed in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, Paterno is a recipient of both the Governor’s Teacher of the Year award for Wayne Township and the Eastern Marching Band Association’s Director of the Year award.  In 2014, School Band and Orchestra Magazine honored him as the New Jersey representative of their “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” list.

Paterno works together with associate musical director Kurt Zimmerman, who serves as co-principal of the trumpet section and has been with the symphony for over a quarter of a century. The symphony’s founder and Director Emeritus is Peter Boor.

One of the challenges before the conductors of HWS is balancing skill with accessibility.

“Over the years, we have tried to present programs that are accessible to the community, but also challenging for the symphony members,” Trusheim said. “It’s a fine tightrope to walk.”

The new season of the HWS opens on Wednesday, October 23 with a concert at their home venue, Memorial Junior School in Whippany. Joining the band will be oboist and past scholarship winner Evelyn Tomaro. 

On November 16, the ensemble will travel to North Hunterdon High School in Clinton for a star-spangled salute to American veterans. The performance will be a benefit concert, with proceeds going towards New Jersey veterans in need.

Later in the year, HWS will mark their staple annual holiday concert, “A Christmas Presence,” at Our Lady of Mercy Church on December 8. The concert has become a tradition for both the symphony and its loyal followers. 

While Trusheim says that all of the symphony’s performances are important, certain annual events stand out among the rest. A Christmas Presence, for instance, is “always packed,” according to the chairman.

“We get a very good response from the community,” Trusheim stated. “Our audience follows us wherever we go.”

In February 2020, the band will head back to its home base of Memorial Junior School to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the Hanover Wind Symphony. HWS members will be giving a premiere performance of a new work for winds by composer Peter Sciano, commissioned by the symphony.

Other concerts to look forward to in the next year include a performance at the Bickford Theatre in the Morris Museum, an outreach concert at Parsippany High School, and HWS’ annual Summer Gazebo Series, sponsored by the Morristown Parks and Recreation Department.

 “Live music is very hard to come by these days; many people have to go to New York City to access it, which can be problematic both in terms of cost and distance,” Trusheim said. “We provide the music directly to the community, and have gathered a very loyal following.”

Paterno summarized the spirit of the symphony in more poetic terms, which nonetheless emphasized the message of communal experience.

“The joy of the wind symphony, the thrill of performing, is sharing music with people,” the music director said. “It’s sharing our love and passion with the audience.”

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