I : The Prelude

 by Bill Coons, GPAS Historian

At the choral and symphony concert on May 1st, 1999, GPAS celebrated the 30th anniversary of its first formal board meeting (on May 1st, 1969) by awarding certificates of appreciation to the people who attended that first meeting and who were able to attend the concert. First meeting attendees were Betty Alleman,* Lee Bock,* Larry Bruce,* Hubert Davies, Rev. DeForest Lowen, Caroline Effinger,* Gordon Fiske, Bob Holtz, Estella Jones, Harriet Lau,* Cheryl McElhattan,* Miriam Newberry, Alice and Ken Slining, Fola Tanchick and Ruth White. Those present to receive certificates are marked by an *. Bob Holtz, who is deceased, was represented by his wife, Gloria. We also honored Phyllis Oyer, who was invited but couldn’t attend that first meeting. Phyllis’ efforts played a significant part in creating an atmosphere favorable to the formation of an organization such as GPAS.

That first board meeting in 1969 didn’t take place without the stage being set by happenings in the preceding years. In this, the first of several articles on the history of GPAS, I will relate some of these happenings as they were told to me by the people involved.

As early as 1963, Phyllis Oyer, a musical mother with musical children, was concerned that youth who participated in music performance groups in school had no place to continue these activities in the summer. She decided to organize a summer band. It consisted of students from Charlotte High, including the 3 Oyer children who lived in the Greece Free School District (consolidated with Greece Central in 1968). They rehearsed in the Oyer basement, and Phyllis directed the group. In 1964, they sought participation of students from Greece Olympia. Tom Saul, a recently retired Greece Central music teacher, who was then a new graduate of Charlotte High, helped in auditioning prospective members. Tom also remembers conducting the band that summer.

Soon the band outgrew the Oyer basement and rehearsals were moved to Holy Cross Church and then to the Charlotte Community Center, in the old firehouse on Stutson St. It gave concerts at such places as the Rotary Sunshine Camp and Charlotte Beach. Helpful in providing players and music for the band were Ken Wade, Bob Moran and Paul Tomasick, all of the Rochester School District. By 1964, there was the concert band, an orchestra, and a vocal group directed by Anna Jean DeDominicis, the vocal teacher at the Britton Road School. The band and the chorus performed together at the Greece Town Hall. The orchestra and chorus didn’t continue, probably because of activities in the Greece School District described in the following paragraph. The band, renamed the Northwest Concert Band, continued until 1967. Several members of that band have gone on to include music in their adult lives, either as a profession or with community performing groups.

The other major events leading up to the formation of GPAS took place within the Adult Continuing Education arm of the Greece Central School District. Records of those early days are sparse, but a copy of the course schedule for 1964-65 lists an Adult Education Chorus rehearsing at Arcadia High School on Wednesday nights with a fee of $6. The director’s name, written in pencil next to the notice, appears to be the same Anna Jean that worked with Phyllis Oyer’s chorus. Another entry, for an Adult Education Band, is crossed out. In the Fall 1967 course list, Adult Chorus again appears with a fee of $7 and no director listed, but the same chorus listed in Spring 1968 lists Anna Jean as director. By the fall of 1968, a Community Symphony, conducted by Roy Thrall, joined the chorus listing. In the fall of 1969, the “Fine Arts” section of the brochure included Chorus, with director “to be announced,” Community Symphony with director Roy Thrall, and a new listing for Greece Orchestral Society, directed by David Fetler. An adjacent block announced the concert performances of the two orchestra groups. 1969 was the same year that GPAS was organized.

A significant event which played a major part in the formation of GPAS took place prior to the beginning of school in the fall of 1967: Bob Holtz came to the School District as Director of Continuing Education. Bob had taught music in Cheektowaga and had started a Continuing Education program there. He left when his program was cut during a budget crisis and worked in the State Education Dept. for 2 years before coming to Greece. He brought his vision of a Continuing Education program with him. He also envisioned an umbrella organization to pull together and coordinate all the various community performing organizations.

During the 2 years prior to May, 1969, Bob talked about his ideas with other people in the Greece music scene, including Roy Thrall, Music Director at Olympia, Basil Marella, Greece Parks Director, Larry Bruce, Betty Alleman and Miriam Newberry, all involved with the existing performing groups. From those early meetings, the concept of a GPAS organization was developed, although it didn’t have that name until the 2nd board meeting. The next installments, will tell the story of that first meeting and all those that have followed.