Catching up with the South Shore Bay Band

Written by Colleen Moore
 | Tuesday, 11 August 2009 20:49

With members ranging from senior citizens to seniors in high school, the South Shore Bay Band has chalked up another successful summer concert series and awarded several students with scholarships to continue their music careers.

Although the band has changed through the years, the mission has stayed the same: to support the local community. Since 1998, the band has awarded several graduating high school seniors a year with scholarships to continue their music careers in college. The band also donates money to the Duxbury Music Department every year to buy new music, equipment or to help fund trips.

“Everything we do is to raise money for scholarships,” Don Greenbaum, a member of the band said. While the band does not charge for people to come to their concerts, they do earn a performance fee from the venues. The money goes straight into the scholarship fund, Greenbaum said. The group has raised $25,000 in the past fifteen years.

This summer marked the band’s 17th summer concert series. While the band has approximately 50 volunteer members now, it wasn’t always that big. In its first year, the band didn’t have enough members to even perform one concert, Jon Olson, a founding member of the band said. It wasn’t until the next year that the band was able to perform a single concert, on the lawn of a house on Powder Point. The first complete season was performed 15 years ago, in which the band performed about five concerts around the South Shore.

“Starting a community organization was not an easy thing to do,” Olson said. With the help of Doran Insurance of Duxbury, the band was able to gain publicity and popularity around Duxbury and surrounding towns.

“We’ve been doing a lot of recruiting,” Band Director Charles Cassara said. “We wanted to open it up not only to adults, but to high school students as well.”

The band has become one of the largest in the area and includes a variety of ages and levels.

“It’s nice to have the older person and the younger person next to each other sharing the experience,” Cassara said. “This is a real mixture, it’s not unusual to have a 15-year-old and a 50-year-old. Everyone has something to offer.” Cassara added that the oldest member in the band this summer is 78 years old.

While the band gets new members each season, there is a large group that returns year after year.

“The group knows each other quite well. We have our own little family away from home,” Cassara said.

Cassara has been a professor at Berklee College of Music for the past 30 years, teaching composition and contemporary music. He first became involved in Duxbury music when he moved to town in 1984. He approached Ric Madru, the high school music director, asking if he could compose pieces for the high school jazz ensemble. In 1994, Cassara joined the South Shore Bay Band, then under the direction of Madru, as a saxaphonist. When Madru stepped down as conductor, Cassara stepped up and has been the director for the past 12 seasons.

The band performs in the Duxbury 4th of July parade, and also in concerts and festivals around the South Shore. Members of the band this summer come from as far away as Boston. The band practices every Monday night at the high school, starting in January. Members of the band are teachers, homeowners, physicians, and students, who don’t always have the time to practice every day, Cassara said.

“I’m fortunate to have good participation and people willing to give up their time,” Cassara said. The band performs almost every weekend starting in late June through August.

“People come and go, but there’s a core group that participates year after year.”  Greenbaum said. There are no formal auditions to become a member, but new musicians are encouraged to attend a practice and see if the South Shore Bay Band is right for them.

“The idea is to give everyone the chance to play,” Greenbaum said. The band has never excluded someone from becoming involved.

While this summer’s season is over, the band is already looking forward to playing again next summer. For a list of upcoming performances or more information, visit