Making Music with the MBU Band

January 24, 2019

New Band Director Richard Adams (left); the MBU Marching Band takes part in the 2018 Staunton Christmas Parade (right, photo courtesy of The News Leader).

Every Tuesday evening, you’ll now find well-known local performer Richard Adams leading members of the Mary Baldwin University Marching Band through their practice in the Student Activities Center Club Room.

“I enjoy the challenge of making music out of a small band,” Adams said, who started as director last August. “I also love working with the students and seeing the gleam in their eyes when music starts to happen.”

The MBU Band is about 30 students strong, and pulls men and women from across the university’s undergraduate programs. Juniors Elizabeth Fitzer and Cadet Sergeant Josephina Reeder serve as drum majors and student band leaders.

The band is frequently found marching with the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) at field parades and ceremonies, and performs at community events, like Staunton’s Veterans’ Day and Christmas parades. The band will also help support MBU women’s basketball take on Methodist during their home game Jan. 26.

On March 10, band members and VWIL cadets will travel to Baltimore for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which has taken place for more than 60 years along the city’s famed inner harbor.

Band members can take the class for credit, and it gives students the opportunity to learn new instruments for the first time or continue their musical training from high school. Academically, this music class is part of the university’s new College of Visual and Performing Arts.

“I like arranging for them,” said Adams. “I’ve written every note they’ve played, because they have instrumentation that’s different from the traditional band music parts. Like we don’t have trombones right now, but I have tenor saxes play the trombone parts.”

Seventeen of the members are current first years, and Adams is excited to see the band continue to grow. In addition to the band, Adams is also helping interested students form a jazz combo on campus.

Adams is a wide-ranging musician and performer, both in the local area and across Virginia. He’s part of the Richard Williams Trio, which is on the Virginia Commission for the Arts roster, singing and playing saxophone, brass, and bass. A member of the Staunton-Augusta Rotary Club, he is the sound guy for the Jazz in the Park concert series during the summer in Gypsy Hill Park. He also travels to elementary schools to perform anti-bullying shows that blend song, dance, and rap to help students learn safe methods to protect themselves from bullying.

A graduate of James Madison University, Adams was the band director for Riverheads High School in Augusta County during the 1980s, and he has taught as an adjunct professor at Bridgewater College. He’s also set up to teach saxophone and trumpet through the MBU music department.

New Band Director Richard Adams (left); the MBU Marching Band takes part in the 2018 Staunton Christmas Parade (right, photo courtesy of The News Leader).