A long commute to and from Anne Arundel County, Md., has prompted Cornelius Young to give up his post as music director for the Vienna Community Band, but he leaves with good memories of the group and the town.
Young, who has been with the band since October 2014, decided to try for the job after not being selected to lead Annandale High School’s band.
“I thought it would be great to conduct a college or community group, something with adults,” he said, noting that his earlier jobs involved coaching youths.
“With kids, you’re starting from ground zero or close,” Young said. “With adults, they come in with all their different instruments. Some have played with bands, others haven’t touched their instruments for 30 years.”
Vienna Community Band leaders thanked Young for his efforts, saying he “exemplified musical leadership and expertise, pushing the band to tackle a variety of new musical pieces and finding opportunities to pair the band with unique talents, to include bringing in vocalists, solo musicians and involving youth in performances.”
Young’s final concerts with the band will be on July 10 at 7 p.m. at Fort Hunt Park in Alexandria and July 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Vienna Town Green.
Young grew up in Clinton, Miss., and first became interested in music after the local high-school band performed for his sixth-grade class. While anticipating becoming a drummer, Young ended up playing the tuba.
He had his first music-education experience in ninth grade, when he helped other students with their instruments.
Young attended Southwest Mississippi Community College, then transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education. He subsequently did graduate study at Eastern Michigan University.
Trained in conducting, piano and tuba, he has taught music in Michigan, Mississippi and Maryland and – as is typical for people in this field – has performed with a multitude of groups. In 2004, he conducted La Banda dell’Esercito (Italian Army Music Band) during a trip to Rome with the University of Southern Mississippi.
As Vienna Community Band’s leader, Young put his musicians through the paces with a wide-ranging selection of works.
“I wanted to play the typical Neoclassic repertoire, but also things that were fun, like stuff played by college and high-school bands and movie songs,” he said. “We tried to program for everyone.”
The toughest songs for the band were works that vacillated between multiple meters.
“It really requires them to bring their A game,” Young said.
Also difficult were pieces with different kinds of harmony, such as atonal and quartal, which were not always familiar to the musicians’ ears, he said.
Among Young’s favorite works are “First Suite in E Flat” by Gustav Holst, “Irish Tune from County Derry” by Percy Grainger, “The Beltway Jam” by Jack Stamp and “Serenade” by Derek Bourgeois.
Young also had the group play jazz works that had been arranged for concert bands. He had been performing with D.C. Different Drummers jazz band, but will be stepping away from that, too.
During his time with the band, Young from 2018 to 2021 also was band director for Green Hedges School in Vienna.
Though the long commute convinced him to step down from that post and announce his upcoming departure from the Vienna Community Band at its December holiday concert, he called his tenure at Green Hedges “probably the best years of my teaching career.”
He was able to incorporate Green Hedges’ band with the Vienna Community Band during two winter concerts and the springtime “Walk on the Hill” in Vienna’s historic Windover Heights neighborhood.
Young said he wants to spend more time with his 6-year-old son, Ketan.
Young’s wife, Reena, is of Indian descent and teaches band and orchestra in Prince George’s County. As a clarinetist, she also played with the Vienna Community Band and strengthened its clarinet section, said Judith Buchino, the band’s secretary.
“I sat right next to her and absolutely loved playing with her,” Buchino said. “However, once they had their little boy, she wasn’t able to play with us anymore, and I really miss her. She keeps Cornelius on his toes by imparting her wisdom about how to play the clarinet, and he very gently passes along her wisdom in the most delightful and caring manner.”
Young recommended that his eventual successor make the most of Vienna’s small-town atmosphere and its opportunities for indoor and outdoor concerts.
“Embrace the band, enjoy all the personalities in it and all the town has to offer,” he advised. “Have fun and make sure the band is having fun.”