The Atascadero Community Band has a lengthy history in our area. We are honored to continue the band’s legacy.
Atascadero Community Band was formed out of a grassroots effort spearheaded by a local musician. According to scrapbook records, in the mid-1980s, Anne Tognazzini approached Bob Best, Head of the Parks and Recreation Department for the City of Atascadero, about starting a community band. The Atascadero Recreation Department publicized the crusade for a community band in the local media. Anne Tognazzini, a baritone saxophone player and founding member of the Morro Bay Community Band, eventually connected with Gil Dovalina, also on staff with the Atascadero Recreation Department and a sax player. Gil, Anne, and a small group of interested musicians met for the first time at the Atascadero High School in September of 1985. It was at this first organizational meeting that the local musicians agreed that the mission and purpose of the Atascadero Community Band would be to perform diverse genres of music, composers, and arrangements in a variety of venues within the community.
By word of mouth, the band membership grew steadily, first performing for the Atascadero Tree Lighting ceremony at the City Administration Building in December 1985. The Atascadero Historical Society hosted a reception in the museum following the lighting of the trees. (Atascadero News, Dec. 11, 1985)
The location of rehearsals quickly changed to the Atascadero Junior High School, and when the first summer came and the school closed, the band rehearsed and performed at the Atascadero Lake Park Pavilion on Tuesday evenings from 7-9 pm. By June 1986, Sam Shliff was acknowledged as the first official conductor of the Atascadero Community Band. June 28, 1986, also marked the band’s first performance at the Atascadero Lake Park on a Saturday afternoon. The Atascadero News reported about 200 people attended the free concert, part of the 1986 Concerts in the Park series offered by the Atascadero Recreation Department and the wineries of Paso Robles. The band played music by John Philip Sousa, Henry Mancini, and others.
As requests to perform all over the county of San Luis Obispo increased and the band membership continued to grow, the city grant funding declined, prompting the founding members of the band to pursue incorporating as a tax-exempt entity. In 1991, the Atascadero Comunity Band officially became an independent corporation organized primarily or exclusively for charitable purposes under California Revenue and Taxation Code section 23701(d) and federal tax-exempt status under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) as a nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation.
About 1994, George Beatie, a retired music professor from Cal Poly, took over conductor duties for the band. He lead them into more sophisticated directions, including purchasing new music, and working in collaboration with the Atascadero Kiwanis to expand the bandstand at the Lake Park.
In the new millennium, Ernie Kapphahn and Charlie Buck shared conducting honors. Charlie Buck directed the 70+ all-volunteer member band through four thematic indoor benefit concerts, a joint performance with the Atascadero middle school, and the magical Tuesday Evenings in the Park, a 10-11 week summer series of one-hour performances from 7-8 pm followed by a rehearsal from 8-9 pm on Tuesday nights at the Atascadero Lake Park, until June 2013.
The band worked with a variety of guest conductors until Randy Schwalbe took the podium in 2015, initially as a guest, and eventually as the permanent conductor for the indoor concert season each year. In March of 2020, the band, along with the rest of the world, came to a grinding halt as COVID-19 – a devastating global pandemic – took over. Members of the band waited patiently in their homes during the lockdowns that ensued. No one could have anticipated that it would be over a year before the band could feasibly resume rehearsals.
On March 30, 2021, the Atascadero Community Band resumed, rehearsing in the outdoor labyrinth area at the Atascadero United Methodist Church. Safety protocols were enforced, observing a minimum spacing of 6 feet between musicians, temperatures taken before stepping into the outdoor rehearsal space, and masks worn whenever instruments were not being played. Concerts were not played until the summer season, when the band resumed playing in the bandstand at the Lake Park. In the Fall of 2021, it was deemed safe to play a formal outdoor concert – so the Rock, Paper, Jazz concert, originally planned for May of 2020, was finally performed outdoors at the Lake Park in September of 2021. The holiday concert for 2021, which historically is played in the Lake Park Pavilion, was also played outdoors, on the steps of the Atascadero City Hall while the audience sat across the street in the Sunken Gardens. The winter weather temperatures grew to be a bit much for rehearsing outside in early 2022, and as a result rehearsals were canceled in February, until the weather warmed up. This caused the Latin Flair concert, scheduled for March 2022, to be postponed until May.
In Summer of 2022, Tuesdays in the Park came back in its fullest glory. The band performed to large audiences each week, welcoming back guest conductors such as Brenda Hascall, Leonard Lutz, David Landers, Keith Waibel, and Carlos Gama. It appears that this is the year we will finally resume indoor formal concerts as well, although COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc as a global pandemic.
The band has been true to its original mission and purpose of promoting the public appreciation of band music, providing a venue to assist and advance local musicians and benefit other local charitable and educational organizations via band music concerts. The content of the music is of a diverse and entertaining nature, and the band is 100% dependent on the generous financial contributions of its loyal and appreciative audience. Many of the band’s members have participated for over 30 years. The band, as a public benefit tax-exempt organization itself, has raised monies for many charitable organizations over the years including El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO), the Women’s Shelter, Hospice Partners of the Central Coast, Toys for Tots, and the Food Bank, just to name a few.
Historical record compiled by Kent Cope, DDS, M J Basti, and Rhonda Rivera