Get your Halloween on with the Farmington Community Band

By: Terry Oparka | Farmington Press | Published October 14, 2015


FARMINGTON — Fifty years ago, music majors Paul and Fern Barber, who play trombone and clarinet, respectively, graduated from the University of Michigan, got married and started their careers as music teachers for Farmington Public Schools.

They were dismayed to see that there were no music classes offered through the adult education program.

So they went to the director of adult education and said they wanted to start a group for musicians. They got some coverage for their initiative from a local newspaper and started the Farmington Community Band one week later.

Fern Barber said that her husband, who passed away in 2006, served as director of the band until the couple moved to North Carolina in 2003. Damien Crutcher has served as the music director and conductor of the Farmington Community Band since then.

Paul Barber also served as director of bands at Harrison High School and later as director of fine arts for Farmington Public Schools.

“The district received the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for Schools Award the year my husband retired,” she said.

Fern Barber came back to Farmington two years ago and plays clarinet in the band with her son, Randy, who plays first trombone with the band. Their daughter, Julie, who lives in California, also plays the trombone.

The Farmington Community Band will begin its 50th concert season with the Spooktacular XXX, a Halloween-themed concert for which the band members dress in costume. The attendees will march in a costume parade, and the band will perform songs from the movies “Aladdin” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” and “Mars,” from Gustav Holst’s The Planets orchestral suite. The musicians will perform in the dark, using glow sticks. There will also be treats.

“It’s a lot of fun for us,” said Jim Liska, vice president of marketing and communications for the Farmington Community Band. The band comprises over 100 people and includes a Dixieland band, wind ensembles and a 20-piece big band.

He noted that the annual Halloween concert attracts a slightly younger audience, and the Christmas concert in December draws the largest audience.

“We have a loyal fan base,” Liska said. He said all but one of the band’s concerts are free. They will perform at Orchestra Hall on June 26, 2016, for which they will charge admission to offset the cost of securing the venue, he said. Those tickets will range from $10 to $50.

Liska joined the band 20 years ago, and said that many musicians, some professional and some who have been playing for many years, have been with the band for 20 to 30 years.

The band practices on Monday nights.

“We’re just doing this because we love playing,” Liska said. “Not all are professional musicians. There are several music teachers. They’re looking for an opportunity to play. … Some enjoyed it as a child and stayed with it. They love doing this. It’s a lifetime commitment.”

Liska said his son, Lucas, a music major at Wayne State University, grew up going to all of the concerts and plays trumpet with the Wayne State University big band.

The theme for this year’s concert season is “A Lifetime of Music,” and the season will feature a number of guest conductors throughout the year.

“We have wonderful concerts planned,” Fern Barber said. “It’s going to be a good year.”

The band’s first concert, Spooktacular XXX, will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 25 at Harrison High School, 29995 W. 12 Mile Road in Farmington Hills. There is no charge to attend.

For more information about this season’s concerts, visit