Big Apple bound

Photo by Zeinab Najm Dearborn resident and Challenge Detroit Fellow Tina Saad, 28, helps organize cans of corns during a hands-on volunteer service activity Sept. 21 at the Focus: HOPE Westside Food Center in Detroit.

Photo by Zeinab Najm
Dearborn resident and Challenge Detroit Fellow Tina Saad, 28, helps organize cans of corns during a hands-on volunteer service activity Sept. 21 at the Focus: HOPE Westside Food Center in Detroit.

Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE – The Downriver Community Band is bound for the Big Apple, and hopes the community and local sponsors will help it raise funds and solicit donations to make the trip possible.

The DCB, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2019, is one of six bands chosen to play at the Association of Concert Bands annual convention April 24 to 28 in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

The group, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, under the direction of conductor Patrick Jensen of Dearborn, gives non-professional adult musicians a chance to perform and contribute to Downriver’s rich cultural tapestry while experiencing personal musical growth and fulfillment. Members play at community events, and past trips have taken the band to Washington, D.C., and Hawaii.

DCB’s 30th anniversary concert will be closer to home, in the Flat Rock High School Auditorium, during which guest conductor and composer James Curnow will lead the band.

DCB Vice President Denise Doede of Huron Township said this is the fourth time the band has auditioned for the opportunity to perform at the ACB convention, and the first time it has been accepted.

DCB President Chris French of Southgate said Jensen played a big role in selecting music which the adjudicators found appealing.
“Our band plays a lot of classical music, and our current conductor has a better feel for what other conductors are excited by,” French said. “The ACB is run by a bunch of people who are in bands, so I think that is what put us over the edge.”

French said the band has been progressing every year for the past five years, to which Jensen has contributed.

Jensen said the band adjudicators look for a mixture of attributes.
“If you do too much of serious or too much of silly, you kind of throw off the balance,” he said. “But we do a really good job of having fun while at the same time challenging the group.”

Jensen said some of the pieces they play for the challenge – the academic type pieces — he played in college or with other bands, yet he said the group also has fun with Broadway show tunes, rock standards and jazz.

“We definitely don’t want to lose sight that we are a community band first,” he said. “But we are really trying to have fun in the less serious sort of way while also trying to challenge ourselves.”

Doede said the group formed in 1989 as part of a Woodhaven adult education initiative to form a community band for people to play in post-high school, with Carol Markus signed in September 1989 to a five-year contract to start a Downriver community band.

“We had four people show up at the first rehearsal,” said Doede, who plays the flute and piccolo. “The four of us were challenged to go out and bring in relatives and friends, and we grew the band to 70 people by the fifth year.”
Doede said DCB typically has 65 to 70 musicians at any given time.

While most are adults, French said occasionally a talented high school musician will be able to fill a role for the band.
“Both of my sons started out in the band when they were in high school,” French said. “But primarily we are an all-adult band.”

The band has members from age 18 to past 80, Doede said.

Jensen said DCB’s next event is a big band dinner dance at 4 p.m. Oct. 20, featuring the music of Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and more at the Brownstown Community Center, 21311 Telegraph. The $20 ticket includes food.

For tickets, call 734-589-0322 or go to
“It’s a fundraiser for the band,” Jensen said. “We are going to play some big band tunes that people can dance to, then after that, we go right on to our Christmas season.”

Jensen said in December the band performs a pro bono concert for ARC, formerly known as the Association of Retarded Citizens.

“It’s a fun concert because the audience gets into it just as much as we do,” Jensen said.

He said the big concert for the end of the calendar year is at 3 p.m. Dec. 23 at Christ the King Lutheran Church, 15600 Trenton Road, Southgate.

“It’s going to be all Christmas music,” Jensen said. “This year we are going to do some Trans Siberian Orchestra tunes with a rock band.”

For more information about the band, go to For questions about sponsorships, contact DCB at

(Sue Suchyta can be reached at