Some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard at it. James Bast is a man who has shared his love of music throughout his lifetime, worked hard to build a successful career teaching music, and will bask in the glory of which countless musicians can only dream: James Bast will stand with baton in hand, take a deep breath, and direct the Greater Shore Concert Band's Golden Anniversary Concert at Carnegie Hall in NYC next spring.
After graduating in 1970 from Gettysburg College with a Bachelor of Science in Music Education, he went on to earn a Masters Degree in Music Education from Temple University. Although a native of Pennsylvania, Mr. Bast moved to the Jersey shore area to serve in the 389th Army Field Band at Fort Monmouth where he played the saxophone and served the military doing what he loved; playing music. In September of 1973, he began his career as an instrumental music teacher and band director in Wall Township Intermediate School where he forged relationships with countless students, many of which he still befriends and directs today. After a long, successful teaching career, he retired in 2005 and continues to share his love of music as director of the Greater Shore Concert Band.
In 1973, Mr. Bast joined the Greater Shore Concert Band playing clarinet and saxophone, and 15 years later became the director when illness struck the band's founder-director, Dr. Henry Melnik. Under Jim's guidance, the band has grown, and a relaxed, although hard-working atmosphere, permeates the rehearsals. Since it's inception in 1967, the band has always offered a fine assortment of challenging musical styles. Marches, symphonies, pop, jazz, Broadway medleys, and classical compositions are rehearsed with care, and the band has become known for its class A concerts.
The Greater Shore Concert Band is a volunteer, non-profit organization comprised of about 75 musicians who share a basic objective; to unite interests and talents of adults and students alike, in making music together for the listening pleasure of those who appreciate music. Throughout the years, band members have met and married, and shared the stage with their musician children, brothers, sisters, and even some grandparents. The personnel, comprised of players of all ages, come from a host of backgrounds, and their diverse membership includes doctors, teachers, engineers, secretaries, IT executives, college professors, homemakers, salespeople, restaurateurs, lifeguards, retirees, and students. The list goes on and on, but they all share one thing in common: the love of music.
Working in central Jersey, the band has played in all sorts of weather and venues, which include the Pollak Auditorium at Monmouth University, boardwalks, churches, and most notably embarked on a 9-day tour in 2003 that took them to the stage in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. Each year, the band performs several holiday and spring concerts in local venues, and a final concert is performed in May.
Throughout the years, Mr. Bast has been able to please audiences by featuring some of his former middle school students at year-end concerts.
For the band's 40th Anniversary Concert in 2007, Mr. Scott Shelsta, a trombone soloist for "Pershing's Own," The US Army Band, was featured as a guest artist. A colorful and dramatic performer, he delighted the audience as he authentically portrayed the legendary Arthur Pryor known as "the World's Oldest Musician" from 1890's Americana.
In 2010, one of Mr. Bast's first and most accomplished students, Jeff Lang, a French horn player in the Philadelphia Orchestra, came home to Wall and graced his high school stage to perform with the band. The members enjoyed his musical insights during rehearsals as much as the audience embraced his magnificent talent during the year-end performance.
To celebrate the band's 50th Anniversary, they will be performing at Carnegie Hall on May 20, 2017 at 7pm. The evening promises to be a most memorable event with guest tenor vocalist, David Smolokoff, a recent Julliard graduate, and the band's Assistant Conductor, Thomas Mosher directing a selection as well. In celebration of Armed Forces Day, military marches will be featured in addition to selections which include overtures, Broadway show tunes and jazz.
As the old adage goes, the way to Carnegie Hall is "Practice, Practice, Practice". He's come a long way from the rehearsal rooms of Gettysburg College, and now James R. Bast can strike another item off his "bucket list.” Hope to see you at Carnegie Hall!
For tickets and information, please visit www.greatershoreconcertband.org or visit them on Facebook.
Article by: Jeanne Fasano, Greater Shore Concert Band