Playing a new tune with the color instruments

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published October 13, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated October 11, 2013 at 4:34 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Charles Gilmore is the president of the board for the Hot Springs Community Band and a member of the Hot Springs Concert Band. The retired Lutheran minister is a percussionist, playing the bass drum and other instruments in the band’s 14 concerts throughout the year.

Charles and Marcia Gilmore’s home in the west end of Hot Springs Village is filled with music.

Not that music is playing all the time; there is just a lot of music in the house. Large baskets of filed music and sheet music to be filed are around, and boxes in the garage contain the electronics and other materials needed for a concert, all stacked and ready to go.

Then there is Marcia’s flute, the piano and the large pages of the music Charles is currently studying. She said she is glad Charles could not bring his bass drum and other percussion instruments home with him.

Both are members of the Hot Springs Concert Band that plays 14 concerts a year, including one at 3 p.m. today at Woodlands Auditorium in the Village.

In addition, Charles is president of the board of directors for the band organization and a percussionist, which is why the concert equipment is stored at their house, and Marcia is one of two music librarians for the band, as well as a flute player; hence all the music.

“I’m the one who sorts it all out after a concert and refiles it,” she said.

“As the president, I am administrator for the bands and organizer behind the scenes,” Charles said. “I oversee the volunteers. I begin the concerts by saying something and then introduce Dr. Craig Hamilton, who is the conductor and music director. Before the second half of the concert, I introduce the concert sponsor and talk to them a bit before the music starts again.”

In between, Charles plays percussion, which would keep anyone busy.

“I do not play the timpani,” he said. “I beat the bass drum, crash the cymbals, hit the triangle, all of what I call the color instruments — those that add sparkle to the music.”

There are 85 members of the concert band, the band president said.

“They have ranged in age from 14 years old to some members who are in their late 80s,” Charles said. “They are from all walks of life, from professional musicians and retired music teachers to just those who love to make music.”

Both the Gilmores fall into the latter category, especially Charles. Marcia has been playing the flute since she was in the fifth grade, including being a member of the high school band.

“I would play it some in church through the years,” she said, “but this was my first chance to get back into a band.”

While Charles’ mother was once a professional band singer, as part of a trio with her two sisters, and he studied voice and piano, Charles’ life took another direction.

“She also gave me my faith,” he said. “I felt the call to seminary.”

Raised in Nebraska, Charles attended a Lutheran college, where he met his wife. He then attended seminary in Iowa.

After becoming a minister, his first call was to a church in San Francisco. It was a big change for the two Midwesterners.

“It was a big change, but it was a great place to raise kids,” Marcia said. “It is a multicultural community, a real melting pot where our children were exposed to so much. It is a great place to raise open-minded but well-grounded kids.”

From California, the Gilmores came back to the Midwest when Charles

became the pastor of a church in Lawrence, Kan. After 17 years there, the Gilmores, with their children grown and on their own, moved to Hot Springs Village — not to retire, but for a job.

“I got the call from Christ Lutheran Church as the senior pastor, but I left the position when I lost my eyesight,” Charles said.

Seeing has always been an issue for Charles, he said.

“I was born premature, and I lost the use of one eye while in the incubator,” Charles said. “I didn’t know it, but I had sleep apnea, and one night it caused a stroke in my optic nerve. The next day, I had to do the Sunday thing at church. I made it through, but I knew something was really wrong.”

Charles is legally blind and receives a disability retirement from the church.

His wife has a way she explains how much Charles can see.

“I said think of his eye as a pizza that is cut into about 12 slices,” Marcia said. “Now pull out one slice, take a bit off the end and slide it back into the rest of the pizza. That space where the bite is — that is how much of his eye can see.”

This is where the music comes back into his life. Both of the Gilmores’ children are singers. Their daughter, Rebekah, is a professional vocalist and flutist in Seattle. Their son, Christopher, remains in Kansas and runs a restaurant, but also plays the trumpet and sings.

“I have always enjoyed watching the timpani and the percussionists,” Charles said. “I even have a monocular I use to watch them. So I was telling my kids how I wish I could be a timpani player, and they paid for me to study in the New Horizon band — they called my bluff.”

It so happens that the New Horizon Band in Hot Springs is a musical group operated by the Hot Springs Concert Band organization.

“It is for those who want to learn to play music or for those who used to play in high school and want to play again but aren’t ready to audition for the concert band,” Charles said. “I was in that band for a year and then was bumped up to the concert band in 2004.”

To overcome his vision problems, Charles’ sheet music is enlarged for him to read.

“That is when her being a librarian comes in handy; she can get to the copier,” Charles said about his wife.

Marcia enlarges the percussion score so Charles can read it. The big pages can be seen on his music stand.

“I can either see the music or the conductor,” Charles said. “I can’t seem to do both, so I count a lot.”

In 2010, Charles was elected to the board of directors of the band and was made president when the new board was organized.

“We are actually the Hot Springs Community Band Inc. and oversee the concert band, the New Horizons band, a big band and the Hot Springs Flute Ensemble,” Charles said. “We do 14 concerts a year, and I have learned that most community bands average about five a year.”

Today’s concert is the opening of the band’s indoor season. They play in Hot Springs Village. The next concert will be in December and will have a Christmas theme, and then they will have a spring concert in April.

In February, they hold their annual Big Band Blast at the Sports Arena at the Jesssieville School District. Summer concerts start on Memorial Day and are held in Whittington Park Median on Whittington Avenue in Hot Springs. In addition, each week through the year, they practice at National Park Community College.

Charles says it is a lot of work to practice every week to prepare for the concerts and to handle the administrative duties as president.

“I’ve had people wonder why I am in the band and work as the president,” he said. “I tell them it keeps me connected with people and focused on something. I enjoy it.”

His second term as president will end in 2016, and Charles said he will not serve another term. However, neither of the Gilmores is talking about leaving the band.

For tickets or more information about the Hot Springs Concert Band or any of the bands in the organization, call (501) 984-1678 or visit

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be contacted at (501) 244-4460 or at

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or

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