By Tracie Isaac
Beginning on June 25th from 12noon to 2pm at East High School, and on every other Saturday, the Hosea Taylor Jr., Memorial Community Concert Band will begin a community-based music program where musicians of all levels can come together to play music, teach and support anyone interested in becoming a musician.
The development of the Hosea Taylor Jr., Memorial Community Concert Band is the result of the Eastman Community Music School (ECMS) of the Eastman School of Music, coming together with Grammy-nominated, Rochester-based Musician Jimmie Highsmith Jr., to honor and recognize the legacy and impact of another local musician the late Hosea Taylor Jr.
If you have ever visited the Rochester Public Market, or shopped at the legendary All Day Sunday store which was in Midtown Plaza, or even heard a great jazz session on Clarissa St. in Rochester, you’ve probably heard the amazing and melodic saxophone music being played by Hosea Taylor Jr.
An extremely talented, knowledgeable, and well-known musician, Taylor was many things to the Rochester community, a champion for people, civil rights activist and mentor to many youths and adults.
Someone who knew Taylor and had a common bond with him, as well as a Rochester-based musician is Grammy-nominated saxophonist Jimmie Highsmith Jr.
“I met Hosea Taylor back in the 80’s. I am a Black Belt in martial arts and Hosea was as well. We met through Eugene “Gene” Lockhart, Owner of All Day Sunday. Hosea sold oils, taught martial arts and music lessons to a lot of inner-city kids. For over 30-years I witnessed Hosea give countless instruments and free music lessons to kids,” states Jimmie Highsmith Jr. “Hosea was a true champion of the community. If he were alive today, he would be a member of this band. Hosea did so much for this community, to my knowledge there is nothing really representing his work in Rochester. So, I thought it was fitting to name the band after Hosea Taylor Jr. because people in Rochester would be proud of this.”
Taylor was a native of Pittsburgh, PA, and a graduate of Wilberforce College. He moved to Rochester in the early 1970’s and worked as a mentor for Action for a Better Community. Because of his love for people Taylor always found ways to give, especially around martial arts and music which many young people benefited from his free lessons.
“Music and Martial Arts provide a level of discipline and focus that provides a path for anyone to improve themselves,” said Jimmie Highsmith Jr. “That was the common thread for me with Hosea. He shared that kind of development with everyone. I am sure that providing and continuing the attention, support and engagement that Hosea gave freely will help some of our youth or others give as mentors to reduce some of the violence and misdirection that is growing in our city,” continued Highsmith.
The target goal of creating this band is to create, broaden and strengthen community unity. Through the power of music, the program will bring together families, friends, music lovers and more. This all came together through the collective partnerships of Eastman Community Music School, Jimmie Highsmith Jr., City of Rochester, ROCmusic, Dr. Shawn Nelms of East High School, First Student and the Rochester City School District. The Hosea Taylor Jr. Memorial Community Concert Band is graciously underwritten by Judy and Bill Rose.
To help the musicians get to East High School for the band practices, First Student will provide free round-trip transportation departing from local Recreation Centers across the city. Any adult or youth can walk to the nearest R-Centers where pick-ups will be made between 11am and 11:30am and transported to East High School. Return trips to the R-Centers will depart after the band rehearsals. This will ensure that no adult or youth will be denied access to participate in the band due to lack of transportation.
Mentorship and fellowship are a priority of the band, led by director Daryl Smith, co-directed by Jimmie Highsmith Jr., with teachers, volunteers, and musical mentors including Gateways Music Festivals’ Director of Programs (and former ROCmusic Director) Armand Hall, and RPO and Gateways performer Herb Smith (both graduates of Eastman).
“I wanted to create something enriching and positive that people could feel proud to be a part of, here in the inner city of Rochester and hopefully create dialogues and new friendships and do something beautiful,” said Jimmie Highsmith, Jr. “This band is important because it will give people an opportunity to get out of their homes, contribute and continuously grow.”
The Hosea Taylor Memorial Community Concert Band will be an “ongoing” band for anyone who lives in Rochester, 8-years old and above, from novices to very advanced and experienced musicians. Highsmith’s desire is to provide an opportunity for kids who are interested in learning to play an instrument to not only get an instrument and to also have free lessons.
A great resource to learn more about Hosea Taylor Jr.’s life is a children’s book Hosea Plays On, written by a local Rochester writer Kathleen M. Blasi and illustrated by Shane W. Evans
“Mostly, I want everyone to play and have a good time. This will be a pressure free environment, come as you are, bring a good attitude and play some music” shared Highsmith. “We’ll have something that everyone can play, not too hard, not too easy. Eventually we will have concerts throughout the year. This is an opportunity for people to come together, black and white, rich or poor, male and female. If you live in the city of Rochester, you can be a part of this band. You can be a retired 80-year-old schoolteacher who taught music or a nine-year old from any school, you are all welcome to this band.”
There are comments about the violence in the city, or there is nothing for people to do, these are complaints without suggestions for solutions or actions. The leadership of the Hosea Taylor Memorial Community Concert Band offers a solution and actions to motivate, teach and give people something and somewhere to contribute.
Music was the vehicle that provided Jimmie Highsmith, Jr. with a reasonably successful life and an opportunity to see the world. He is a product of the RSCD and the inner city and has traveled to three continents and twenty countries. Highsmith is a mentor with organizations like Black Men Achieve (BMA) and FIRE.
“If more people would take the time to engage our children we would see a change in our community,” stated Highsmith.
For more information call Jimmie Highsmith Jr.; (585)666-0019 or email Blacsax1@yahoo.com.