After 76 years, a signature Cranbrook institution is facing an existential moment of reckoning.
The Cranbrook Bugle Band is in need of a new director — with the pending retirement of longtime director Pat Ronalds.
“If nobody takes it over, it’s done,” Ronalds said. “If nobody comes forward, the band will go into hiatus for one year. Then it will be disbanded.”
Ronalds has long been a driving force for the Bugle Band. This is actually her second retirement — having previously stepped down in 2012, she returned when the band directorship was again empty. All in all, more than 30 years with the group
“I was in it as a girl,” Ronalds said. “I then worked with [longtime renowned director] Joyce Metcalfe as her assistant. I moved to New Brunswick, returned, and took it over in 1996.
“Twenty-one years, and I would not have given them up,” she said of her time as director.
The Cranbrook Girls Bugle Band was formed in 1941 by local legend Pop Price, starting with 13 members.
Before Ronalds became director, Joyce Metcalfe held the position for 41 years.
In its time, the band has performed across North America and is recognized as one of Cranbrook’s identifying features.The band’s membership has at one time been over 120 members. Its current membership is nine girls.
It always been a musical and mentorship group for girls from Grade 6 right into early adulthood. Ronalds said 3,500 Cranbrook girls have come through its ranks. The band’s remarkable longevity and membership was celebrated in 2011 by Sam Steele Days, when many of its alumni returned to march and ride in the parade of that year. Shortly after that, the band changed its name to the Cranbrook Bugle Band, and become a co-ed institution to welcome boys into its ranks as well. But at present, its membership is all girls.
Ronalds read out a list of criteria for a new director, prepared by the girls themselves.
“I’d like the new band director to have a musical background and a sense of humour, and who would add different kinds of instruments, and increase membership,” wrote one.
“Be there for us, tolerate us, work with us and our ideas,” wrote another.
“No yelling please,” wrote another.
“A sense of humour, but strict when needed.”
“Someone who cares about the girls outside of band.”
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“Bugle band is like a family to me,” said Jessika, who plays bass drum in the band. “It’s really fun, you get to do stuff with everybody — they’re all my friends.”
Jessika was in Bugle Band from 2009 to last year, though she “came out of retirement” this year and came back.
“I feel like people don’t remember that we’re around as much as they used to,” she said. “Even as much as other cities know about us. We get a lot more requests from other cities to go to their events, than Cranbrook.”
While it appears that times are changing around the Cranbrook Bugle Band, its uniqueness as an institution cannot be overstated. For instance, members play upon antique instruments — the bugles they play went out of production in 1970 (when in need of repair, they are sent to a man in Kelowna who does those repairs).
If the Cranbrook Girls Bugle Band is forced to disband, then by law it will either have to donate its assets — instruments and uniforms, etc — to a like group. Or, sell those assets and donate the money to charity.
“When the Vernon All-Girls disbanded, they called us to see if there was anything we wanted,” Ronalds said. “But their uniforms were a different colour, the instruments were different, and we couldn’t use them.”
If you are interested in the directorship of the Cranbrook Bugle Band, email email@example.com.