HALEYVILLE - They were a symbol of pride for communities in decades past - a town band marching in parades or playing at a town square. Now, a Haleyville resident is wanting to bring back this time-honored tradition locally.
Jeff Underwood, who has moved to Haleyville from New Orleans, is wanting to generate interest in Haleyville having a town band that is comprised of local musicians. His vision for the band is to see it march in parades and play at the Heart of Haleyville Park downtown, among other events.
Underwood has led a musical life. He began playing the tuba at age 9, an instrument he still plays to this day. He graduated with a performance degree from DePaul University in Chicago. He moved to New Orleans 20 years ago to immerse himself in the artistic life that city had to offer, performing with the New Orleans Opera for 12 years.
Moving from a major metropolitan area - with all its musical and theatrical opportunities - to a small town has been an adjustment for Underwood and the artistic side of his personality.
“There's very little to do in the arts here in town. I thought it'd be a good idea to have a little community band to involve some civic pride and also involve people who had played instruments before and really don't have an opportunity here to play,” Underwood said.
Underwood envisions the band including brass, percussion and woodwind instruments. Having lived in New Orleans, he is very familiar with and fond of the second line bands that help define that city.
“They lead processions for weddings and funerals and all sorts of things. They're usually anywhere from six to 10 people,” Underwood said, indicating he suspects a city marching band would be similiar in size. However, he is certainly open to more people joining the band if there is a greater interest.
“I have taught groups anywhere from 80 to 150 people,” Underwood said.
Underwood has approached the Haleyville Area Chamber of Commerce with his idea, and has received a positive response from them.
Underwood also has a love for theater, not just being on the stage, but behind the scenes.
“I used to be a contractor, so I have skills building sets. I'm a costume maker. I've done some choreography,” Underwood said.
Underwood is currently collaborating with the Shoals Community Theatre in Florence on productions, but would like to see more music and theater opportunities closer to his new home.
“I'm trying to keep my musicality going without having to drive an hour to do it,” Underwood said with a smile. “I'd love to see a theater group here. I know we have a smaller population, but there's so many small communities around here. I know there are people here who would probably be interested if they weren't having to drive an hour each way.”
Underwood hopes to have the community band rehearsing weekly together before the end of the year. He is not expecting any monetary involvement from anyone at this time. The only requirement is for each musician to have his or her own instrument. He would love to have the group ready to perform in time for the 9-1-1 Festival in June.
Interested persons can contact Underwood by calling him at (504) 261-5322 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Underwood is very happy to now be living in Haleyville and is looking forward to becoming a part of the community.
“I'm happy to be here. I want to become involved in the community,” Underwood said.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.