Last Tuesday evening, the Mount Vernon High School band room was full of activity. Flautists trilled, trumpet players rehearsed scales, and percussionists set up their instruments at the back of the room.
At 7:30 p.m., a woman clad in a blue sweater and glasses took her place in front of the room, baton in hand. She called the musicians' attention, silencing the room. She raised her baton, instruments were lifted, and the first note in a major scale was played, filling the room with a vibrant chord.
That evening marked Linda Davidson's first rehearsal as the new conductor of the Mount Vernon Concert Band.
Davidson holds a BA in Music Education from James Madison University and has taken additional coursework at George Mason University and Villanova University. Davidson, a flautist, joined the Mount Vernon Community Band in April 2012 and was asked to fill in when concert band manager Owen Hammett was unable to conduct one night. The rest is history.
Patch caught up with Davidson after rehearsal last week.
Davidson was born in Memphis, Tenn., and resides in Alexandria. She has two children in college: a daughter at Virginia Commonwealth University and a son at Northern Virginia Community College. Davidson’s parents and one of her sisters lives in Northern Virginia.
Patch: How did you become the conductor of the Mount Vernon Community Band?
Linda Davidson: The Concert Band has been without an "official" conductor for several months, after their long-time conductor Todd Mastric moved to Florida. During this time, Owen Hammett, who is the Swing Band director and Concert Band manager, filled in as a substitute conductor for the group. He and others, such as Band President Eric Leighty, put out the word that the Concert Band was in need of a new conductor. One Tuesday evening, Owen was unable to be there to lead rehearsal. He asked if I would fill in that night, and I did. Unknown to me at the time, Owen actually did arrive for the last few minutes of rehearsal. He didn't want to disrupt the rehearsal (or maybe didn't want to risk making me nervous!), so he hid behind some percussion equipment (I think it was) until after rehearsal was over. Then, at another rehearsal, Owen approached me and asked if I might be interested in conducting the group. I told him that I definitely would be interested. I later met with both Owen and Eric to discuss the idea, and it was announced to the group that I would be the new conductor.
Patch: What are you looking forward to in your new position as conductor?
LD: I teach beginning and intermediate Band and Strings (in Prince William County), which I enjoy very much, but I'm excited about this opportunity to conduct music at a higher level. I enjoy learning and performing music with this very friendly group of adult musicians: people with a variety of professional backgrounds who come to rehearsal each week to make music together.
Patch: What activities do you enjoy in your spare time?
LD: My hobbies, other than music, include reading (especially historical fiction) and dancing (swing, salsa, hustle, etc.).
Patch: What is your favorite piece of concert band music?
LD: I don't think I really have a favorite piece of concert band music, or a favorite piece of music in general. What I might pick as a favorite would vary, depending on my mood, or what I've been listening to lately, among other factors. I'd guess most people are like that.
The Mount Vernon Concert Band is looking for musicians to join the band. All skill levels are welcome. The band rehearses Tuesday evenings at 7:30 p.m., in the Mount Vernon High School band room. For more information, visit their website.