Another summer of favorites with the Vineyard Haven Band


Sitting back on the lawn listening to the Vineyard Haven Band play a collection of old favorites, marches, show tunes, and popular pieces is something Heidi Dunkl of Chilmark does one night a week for most of the summer.

The band, often erroneously called the “town band,” plays Sunday evenings in the gazebos in Owen Little Park, Vineyard Haven, and in Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs.

Both of Ms. Dunkl’s brothers, also from Chilmark, have played in the band since 1985. Frank, the band’s president, plays the double bell euphonium, the baritone horn, and the French horn. Peter plays French horn. Heidi drives the trailer that carries the band’s equipment.

The band is supported by the two towns where they play most of their concerts, $2,000 from Vineyard Haven and $4,500 from Oak Bluffs, as the band plays more often in Oak Bluffs. The money pays for insurance, uniforms, equipment, and miscellaneous expenses, according to the group’s secretary-treasurer, piccolo player and self-appointed keeper of the uniforms, Martha Childs.

Playing in the band is somewhat of a family tradition for Ms. Childs. “My father played in the band for 60 years,” Ms. Childs said in a phone conversation with The Times. She said her grandmother was one of the first women to play in the band when they opened up to women after a decline in male musicians in the late 1960s. She added that the band accepted women early in the 20th century but that it was exclusively male for most of the 20th century.

“I have played in the band for 45 years,” she said. “I have been with the band longer than any other present member except John Shilling, who started a year before me.” Mr. Schilling, Vineyard Haven’s fire chief, is a trumpeter. Ms. Childs first played with the band when she was 12, after switching from her first instrument, the violin, to a more band compatible instrument, the flute, and then to the piccolo.

The band is 145 years old, according to Ms. Childs. “It began as a collection of Civil War veterans, from both sides, in 1868. They called themselves The Silver Cornets.”

The band has approximately 35 active members at the beginning of the summer season and by August, when most of the summer members arrive, the band grows to about 50, according to Ms. Childs.

She said the band is open to anyone who can play. “We have a couple of kids in junior high school who are playing.”

“The band really encompasses everybody,” explained Julie Schilling, John’s wife, in an earlier conversation with The Times. “The level isn’t important. It’s more about the camaraderie and the history of it continuing.” Ms. Schilling often conducts the band and leads the band at the Tisbury School. She has been a member for 27 years.

The choice of music for each concert varies with the strengths of the musicians and the available instruments. Guest directors are not uncommon.

The band began rehearsals in mid June, on Monday evenings at the Sailing Camp on Barnes Road in Oak Bluffs, from 7:30 to 9 pm. They continue through the season. For more information, call 508-645-3458.

The Vineyard Haven Band Summer Schedule

The band will play on Sundays in Vineyard Haven at 8 pm at Owen Park on July 21, on August 4, and on the band’s last concert of the summer, August 18. Rain dates are the following Monday evenings at 8 pm.

The Oak Bluffs schedule at Ocean Park is 8 pm, July 14, and 28, and August 11. The band will play for Illumination Night August 14 at 7:30 pm at the Tabernacle in the Campground and for the Oak Bluffs fireworks August 16 at the Ocean Park gazebo beginning at 7:30 pm. Monday night rain dates are at the Tabernacle.