Huntington Beach band leader keeps song in his heart – Orange County Register

 

Music director Tom Ridley leads the Huntington Beach Concert Band with students from Marina High School in 2014. A former educator, Ridley is in his 41st year as the Concert Band’s musical director. (Joshua Sudock, Staff Photographer)

HUNTINGTON BEACH In 1977 the members of the Huntington Beach Concert Band voted in favor of a young high school music teacher looking for a part-time gig to lead them. And Tom Ridley hasn’t looked back.

Back then, although Ridley had played clarinet in the 72nd U.S. Army Band, he had never thought of conducting a band.

But he needed the money.

“I had a kid, a house and a wife,” he said. “It seemed a good way to make money.”

This one, which paid about $3,000 annually seemed pretty good. Particularly in 1977 dollars.

A year later, voters passed Proposition 13 and funding for the band from the city soon dried up.

“But by then I was hooked,” said Ridley, who became a dues-paying volunteer conductor.

This year, Ridley, 71, took the baton to start his 41st season with the local ensemble. And while he now receives a modest honorarium for his efforts, it remains largely a labor of love.

The band plays host to the free 11-week Huntington Beach Concert Band Summer Concert Series at the newly dubbed Thomas Ridley bandstand in Central Park behind the Central Library.

The local group kicks off and ends the series each year. Other featured groups range from concert bands to Latin bands to swing bands. The HB Concert Band will also play Sunday, July 23, when it presents music from movies.

Thomas Ridley is in his 41st year as band leader of the Huntington Beach Concert Band. (Photo Courtesy Thomas Ridley)

Lloyd Glick, 93, the last remaining original member of the band from its founding in 1973, remembers that when Ridley auditioned for the job, he immediately was the top choice.

“I’d say there there was instant recognition of his ability,” Glick said. “Just his manner and his professionalism.”

When Ridley was hired the…

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