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Photo taken in front of Cumberland hospital, courtesy Walter Tarling collection

The Comox Valley Concert Band began as a military band in 1947 with the 62nd Anti-Tank Battery, which was stationed at the army camp located on the present site of Vanier Secondary School.  It has gone through many incarnations since and has been know as the Courtenay Band and the more familiar Comox District Concert Band. Today it is known as the Comox Valley Concert Band reflecting the draw of musicians from all local communities.

In those days the band was all male and very military.  And although many musicians were civilians, they were attached to the militia, wore military-issue uniforms, and marched in rigid formation. 

At that time the 25-member group was under the direction of Harold Dixon, a well-known businessman in the Valley.  However Jack Henly-Lewis, the camp’s commander at the time, wanted the group to devote another evening for the performance of military-type drill. 

This did not sit well with many of the members since it would be an extra evening in their already busy schedules, so by 1948, the band had become a civilian group, and rehearsals were moved to the CCF Hall on Fitzgerald Avenue and Sixth Street. 

During those early years the band made three highly successful appearances in PNE parades in Vancouver, and even won an award for excellence from the exhibition.  Band  members, with a panel truck full of their instruments, would catch the 7 a.m. ferry, arriving in Vancouver just in time for the start of the parade march along Georgia to Granville Street, then out to East Hastings and the PNE grounds. 

Newspaper articles at the time also recorded that with four drummers – of the Scottish type – the practicing band could be heard throughout Courtenay, and their public appearances were impressive. 

Later the band became affiliated with the Courtenay Recreation Association and moved their rehearsals to their facility in Lewis Park.  However the poor acoustics in the old hall at the CRA caused much confusion and communication difficulties, and the quality of the music suffered. 

Eventually the band returned to their roots by moving into the band room at the new Vanier High School, under the direction of Mike Kirkwood. 

At that time the band would often put on concerts at the Sid Williams Theatre.  In those days, professionals were not coming into the theatre, so a band concert got more attention than it does now. Members of the band still enjoy the camaraderie that comes with playing in the ensemble, and look forward to Tuesday night practices.   

During it’s seventy one years of existence, the band has benefited significantly from the music programs in local schools with the full cooperation and enthusiasm of their music and band teachers.  CVCB gives students the opportunity to continue their musical journey after finishing high school in a cooperative and fun atmosphere.

Today the band, which now practices in Mark Isfeld Secondary School and is comprised of more than 50 members from all walks of life, ranging in age from their teens to those in their 90s.