When Jean Butler assembled a dozen local musicians for a PTA show in
1986, she never could have imagined that the Amherst Town Band would eventually triple in
size and play internationally.
A celebration of the bands musical memories will take the form of a 20th
anniversary concert Tuesday on the Amherst Town Green at 6:30 p.m. "Then and
Now," the programs theme, will include many past favorites, as well as a visit
from Butler, the bands original matriarch and conductor, who, along with husband
Irv, relocated to Florida a few years ago.
"Were very excited and gratified the band has flourished," she said.
"We felt honored to be invited back. We were real touched. Itll be nice to see
Despite its humble beginnings, the Amherst Town Band has grown to become a regional
favorite for concerts all year. Organizing the first musicians in 1986 required assistance
from the town.
"I went to Pete Houston, who was in charge of recreation in Amherst and asked if
hed help me get a place to rehearse. He also served as our announcer," Butler
Trombone player Tad Thompson of Wilton, who joined the group about 15 years ago, gives
a lot of credit to Butlers efforts in those early years."Jean was the band. She
embodied the fun, spirit, energy and commitment. There was no nucleus in the
Amherst/Milford area. Jean pulled a pit band together for a PTA show 20 years ago and
said, Theres a lot of talent here. Theres no reason we cant have a
band. Over a period of time, she was able to attract a number of musicians. She and
Irv ran the entire band including rehearsals, arrangements and publicity," Thompson
When the Butlers left the band in 2002, French horn player Pat Anderson stepped up to
the conductors podium and took the baton from Butler. In addition to her duties with
the Amherst Town Band, Anderson serves as choral director at Souhegan High School.
Thompson said Anderson was a good choice to replace Butler.
"A lot has to do with the conductor," he said. "If you dont click
on a musical level, you dont go. Jean was able to do that over the years. Pat has
the same welcoming supportive attitude and energy," he added.
Hampton Falls resident Richard Ridolfo, who plays trumpet, seconded Thompsons
endorsement of Butlers successor.
"Pat does an excellent job getting us ready and plans the music well in advance.
After Labor Day, well start prepping for Christmas. The band is very well prepared
and does a great job at sight-reading, which wasnt so when we started. Its
turned out to be a very good band. We get nice praise from people in the community,"
Ridolfo is one of only two original remaining members of the Amherst Town Band. At 62,
the owner of an antiques and train shop in Hampton Falls continues to commute to Amherst
for rehearsals and show performances.
"People thought when I moved to Hampton Falls, I wouldnt stay
involved," he said. "Its not a big imposition on your time, about an hour
and a half each week. We play just enough venues not to impose on your schedule."The
bands venues have gone well beyond the local Fourth of July and Christmas shows,
according to Thompson, whose personal favorite is the annual performance at York Beach,
"They have a big gazebo on the shore and lawn. They get huge crowds of 400 to 500
people that listen to the band. When theres a sunset, it doesnt get any better
than that," Thompson said. The group has also played twice in Wales with musicians
who have performed in New Hampshire twice in the past dozen years.
The Milford Haven band performed as part of Milfords bicentennial celebration in
1994. Four years later, the Amherst Town Band was invited to play at several concerts and
parades in Wales. The Welsh musicians returned in 2000 and are expected to visit New
Hampshire for a third time next year. Thompson was impressed with the hospitality and
enthusiasm received from their friends in the United Kingdom."They were very gracious
hosts, and their country has a rich history. When we parade over there, crowds are huge in
the burgs and hamlets, 10 to 20 deep watching us go through," he said. Despite
frequent cloudy and rainy weather in Wales, the show always goes on, according to
Thompson. "If they waited for good weather, theyd never do anything."
Retired conductor Butler didnt remain retired for long after moving to The
Villages in Florida, a community of 60,000 seniors just north of Orlando.
"Its not typical," Butler said. "Its a community with life.
We have a Dixieland band, swing band, strolling band and two concert bands. I conduct the
concert band and co-conduct the New Horizons Concert Band, which encourages seniors to get
back into music. We have people who havent played in 60 years and have the
confidence to do it again," she adds.
Thompson recalls an incident where a planned practical joke was played on Butler one
"One time, I think it was Jeans birthday, on one piece, we (secretly)
decided to play out of tune. She gave us that look, What in the world are you
doing? Then she collapsed in gales of laughter," Thompson said.
Butler believes hard work and dedication can be fun.
"Youre involved with people who want to be there. My job is to have fun and
I absolutely do."