Frank Miller, HCB Director 1955-1974

S. Robert Fraser, HCB Director 1974-1985

In the late 1940s some Brush High School alumni, along with several South Euclid & Lyndhurst residents and some advanced high school musicians, formed a summer concert band program.  This program fell under the domain of the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Recreation Commission (SELREC).  Over 50 musicians met and played together on Tuesday evenings.   This group initially met as a summer band; however, it was decided that the band should meet year-round.   By the fall of 1955, the summer community band officially became a year-round band named the Hillcrest Concert Band.  Their first public concert was held in 1956.

Frank Miller organized the band and was hired as the first conductor of the Hillcrest Concert Band.  At that time, Frank was the conductor for the Brush High school band as well as conductor for several other bands in the Cleveland area. Frank was HCB’s beacon of inspiration from the very beginning.  His direction provided the base upon which the current band is built.  He led the Hillcrest Concert Band from 1955 until 1974.

S. Robert Fraser, a string bass and tuba player within the band, took over as conductor in 1974.  Bob was the Shaw High School band director at the time.  Later he became Director of Educational Services for the King Instrument Company. Under his leadership, the Hillcrest Band prospered and grew until he stepped down as director in 1985.  

The Hillcrest Concert Band at the International Music Festival, Sydney Australia - July 1999

Paul Lawrence took the podium in 1986 as the third conductor of the Hillcrest Concert Band.  He is approaching his 35th year as the band’s music director making him, by far, the HCB’s longest serving leader.  Paul was a music educator in the Danbury Township (Lakeside OH) and Bedford City Schools teaching all levels of instrumental music, music theory and music appreciation.

Under Paul’s direction the band celebrated its 35th anniversary in 1990.  To commemorate the occasion, the band commissioned Albert Oliver Davis to compose a special piece.  He wrote the Jade Overture as jade is the precious gem associated with 35th anniversaries.  The Jade Overture was performed many times that year and again in 2015 as part of the band’s 60th anniversary.  

Five years later, in 1995, the 40th anniversary of the band was celebrated with a concert on the stage of Severance Hall and the band began planning its first overseas trip.  The tour of the Czech Republic took place in 1996 with the highlight being the Kmoch Festival in Kolin.  This included a mass concert with over 1000 musicians.  Paul Lawrence directed the mass band in a rousing performance of Ceska Musica!  

The Hillcrest Concert Band traveled to Australia and New Zealand in 1999.  This trip included participation in the Australian International Music Festival at the Sydney Opera House.  There the band was awarded a silver medal and invited to play again the following evening for the exciting closing ceremonies at the Sydney Town Hall.  The band received a standing ovation for their rendition of Waltzing Matilda.

In 2002 the band traveled to Victoria, British Columbia where they boarded the Royal Caribbean Vision of the Sea to cruise to Alaska.  While on board, the band presented two concerts to the patrons on the ship.  Concerts were also performed in Ketchikan, Alaska and in Vancouver, BC.  

The Hillcrest concert Band on stage at Carnegie Hall, NYC – July 2008

The Hillcrest Concert Band honored its 50th anniversary in 2005 by commissioning band euphonium player and guest conductor, Roy Hawthorne, to write a special piece.  He gave the band Prelude, Waltz and Rondo which was played throughout the summer of 2005.   As part of the 50th anniversary celebration, the band traveled to the British Isles where the band performed at several venues, including the International Music Festival at Anvil Hall in London.  The band was awarded a silver medal for that performance. The band also toured and played at Kneller Hall where Gustav Holst taught and composed.

In 2008 the Hillcrest Concert Band traveled to New York City and Washington DC.  Highlights of the New York City portion of the trip included a John Philip Sousa-themed performance at world famous Carnegie Hall, and playing On the Mall at the Naumberg Bandshell in Central Park, where the march’s composer, Edwin Franko Goldman regularly performed with his band.  During their stay in Washington DC, the band played in a large band festival at Schlesinger Hall in Alexandria, VA.  The band also played in a mass band on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial under the direction of Colonel Arnald D. Gabriel, retired commander of the USAF Band.

2020, the Hillcrest Concert Band celebrates its 65th anniversary.  True to the band’s mission, “More Music for More Ears,” the HCB continues to play around 20 concerts per year – now well over 1300 concerts since their first performance in 1956.  Although the COVID-19 outbreak has brought the 2020 concert season to a halt, the Hillcrest Concert Band looks forward to getting back to making music in the fall, preparing for the band’s annual winter program and next year’s summer concert tour.

Adapted from the book, The Hillcrest Concert Band – 60th Anniversary by Martha Custer.  Used by permission.