By Claire Harlin
It was 1982 and Judy Thum sat watching her kids’ soccer game one afternoon. Another soccer mom, Jan Turnage, noticed that Thum was wearing a musical note pendant around her neck and asked if she played an instrument.
“I told her I played the clarinet and she asked if there were any bands around here to play in,” said Thum, 69, of Encinitas.
At that time, there was a North Coast Orchestra, but no local band for those living in the North County coastal area. Turnage had just moved from Plano, Texas, where she helped organize a community band, so combined with Thum’s knowledge of the area and the music community, the two were set make history.
“She and I talked and decided we need to form a band right here locally,” said Thum, who asked a local trombone player to be the band’s director and secured the San Dieguito High School band room as a place to practice. The director there also lent the school’s music and percussion instruments. She advertised for band members in local newspapers and word spread by mouth. Within less than a year, the 14-member Coastal Communities Civic Band was playing small concerts — such as parades, Del Mar fair shows and the opening of the Batiquitos Lagoon — and by the 1990s the award-wining band was traveling internationally and selling out venues holding more than 1,200 people.
Thirty years later, Thum still plays in the 76-member ensemble, which has become well-respected in the musical community, and a staple in the north coastal community, partnering with a number of schools and charitable organizations and selling out concerts almost every year.
On Feb. 17, the band — called the Coastal Communities Concert Band — will hold a special 30th anniversary concert at 2 p.m. at the Carlsbad Community Church. On Dec. 2 the band packed the Escondido Performing Arts Center, as it does every year, for its annual holiday concert benefiting Meals on Wheels.
Thum said the band’s annual events often sell out because many locals have been going to the concerts for years.
“When people come to a beautiful hall like that and hear exciting, fun, beautiful music, they want to hear us again,” said Thum. That’s why we have a reputation.”
Much of the reputation also comes from the fact that the band is highly recognized and involved. They perform 10 concerts a year, award scholarships to kids, do music outreach in public schools, and they’ve even won an Emmy.
The band’s members come from all walks of life, some retired and some working professionally in a variety of settings. Members include Susan Aaberg of Solana Beach, who teaches deaf children, Carmel Valley resident Andrea Mays, a self-taught musician and patent attorney at Qualcomm, and David Paa, a Del Mar pediatric neurologist. Many of the band’s members have played music professionally as well.
“We are so very different as far as ages and experience levels and professions, but we all hear a piece of music the same way,” said band member Kate Takahashi, of Carmel Valley. “We are all on the same page when we have that collective sigh when we know a piece went very well.”