Mark Allen founded the band in 1999 but left in 2003 for a teaching job in Newcomb, New Mexico. He now lives in Cortez, and is set to become the director for the band’s 2017 season. Rehearsals start Monday, and are open to anyone who plays a band instrument or is willing to learn.
Allen has taught music for about 35 years, and plays the saxophone in several local musical groups. He saw a need for a community band in Montezuma County when he first moved there in the 1990s, so he advertised in The Journal and circulated fliers around town, asking anyone who played an instrument to come to the first practice at the Cortez Cultural Center.
“I had high expectations,” he said. “Three people walked in. But those three people were a French horn, a bassoon and a sax player. I never thought I’d get a French horn or a bassoon around here.”
The first people to attend band rehearsal told Allen that more would come, and they turned out to be right. Within a few years, the band outgrew the Cultural Center and moved practices to First Baptist Church, which has hosted them, free of charge, ever since. They play many different types of music, from jazz to pop to Broadway tunes – Allen said the only genre he doesn’t like to direct is heavy classical.
There are about 28 people in the Four Corners band, but Allen hopes more will join soon. The current members cover a wide range of ages, from players in their early 20s to a 92-year-old violinist who covers oboe parts (the band doesn’t have an oboist). Allen said the band members also tend to start out with a wide range of experience and talent. Allen believes anyone can learn to play with a band if they’re willing to show up for rehearsal every week.
Since Allen left, several other people have directed the band. The most recent director, Katherine Johnson, decided to give it up so she could concentrate on her own instrument, the tuba. She still plans to play with her bandmates.
Fawn Curtis, the president of the band’s steering committee, said she asked Allen to replace Johnson after he told her he had left his Newcomb high school and missed directing a band. Although she wasn’t involved with the band when he founded it, she said she expects him to be a “really great” director, and hopes he can help them get more recognition and more concerts this year.
“I’d love to see us get more venues and concerts where the band is the main event,” Curtis said.
Over the past few years, Four Corners has played in several festivals and parades, including Escalante Days and the Rico Fourth of July celebration, but recently they haven’t had many concerts of their own. Allen hopes to get back to playing concerts in the park and at local schools. After they get settled into a regular rehearsal schedule, they’ll play at any venue or event that wants them.
The first Four Corners rehearsal was scheduled for Monday, Jan. 23, but it was canceled because of snow. It has been rescheduled for Jan. 30.
Allen and Curtis are hoping percussionists and trumpet players, but Curtis said all instruments are welcome. Allen said he would like to see more young people, including high school students, in the Four Corners band. But he’s also happy to include older musicians, even if they haven’t played in a while.
“A lot of people tell me, ‘I can’t play because I only played in high school and that was so long ago,’” he said. “But you never forget. It comes right back.”
The Four Corners band doesn’t charge for their performances, but they do accept donations.