A Chatham native, our bandmaster, Vaughn Pugh, is now entering into his 38th season conducting the Chatham Concert Band. In 1984, Vaughn had replaced the late Phil Carney (who was bandmaster for 24 years), who in turn had followed Sid Chamberlain (who held the position for 31 years). Clearly, longevity is a hallmark of Chatham Concert Band conductors!
Before he had even started school, Vaughn’s parents had started him on his future path by arranging private piano lessons. It wasn’t long before early ear-training established that he was blessed (at times he would say, “cursed”!) with “perfect pitch”, a trait which would come in handy as he learned to play trumpet and then French horn, where pitching of notes became even more challenging.
Vaughn is a product of the Concert Band’s own junior band program and fondly recollects summer mornings in the 1960s spent rehearsing in Tecumseh Park with Phil Carney and the gang for the annual late-summer band competitions at the CNE in Toronto. Combined with private lessons (Bus Bowers—piano and theory; Art Levick—trumpet; Jim LaPointe—horn), Vaughn received a very thorough musical education and as a teenager earned side money playing with various bands and groups in an era when “live music was best”. To this day, he still enjoys playing trumpet with the stage band and keyboards with his rock group “Niteflite”.
While studying a little music “on the side, for fun” at university, his main focus would turn out to be law, and Vaughn articled in Ottawa after graduating with his law degree. In 1979, he returned to Chatham to start his own law practice, marry Martine and re-join the Chatham Concert Band. Indeed, 1979 was a banner year for him! In the spring of 1984, following the death of Phil Carney, Vaughn became the Bandmaster—only the fourth in band history—and on July 8th, barely into his first summer series, son Colin was born… another banner year! Two years later, daughter Kyla was born and the family was complete. Colin is now married (Laura) and teaching at CKSS, while Kyla is with WestJet in Toronto. In April 2017, Colin and Laura gave birth to Sophie—the first grandchild for Martine and Vaughn—to kick off the band’s 90th year and Canada’s 150th… another banner year!
Vaughn attributes his longevity to the personalities of all the people in the Band around him, who understand his desire to get the best out of each and every individual and thus produce the best overall product possible in performances. “I know every person has his or her own talent and skill levels and fully recognize that we are a volunteer organization of (mostly) amateur musicians. By the same token, I know that every individual has a great deal of potential that sometimes just has to be recognized and un-locked.
There’s a great deal of satisfaction to be had from taking some piece that was ‘brutalized’ at practice and bringing it to a professional level of performance that we can all be proud of! Whether it’s performing at a church, one of the summer concerts or parades, or any other event, Vaughn hopes the Chatham Concert Band brings a smile to the face, and joy to the ear, of every listener!.