Of the many good reasons for music lovers to plan to attend Thursdays On The Square this week, two are local-and don’t we love local! On this evening the Calder City Concert Band will feature a couple of Sparta Area Schools local legends-Robert Stiles and Jim Zwarensteyn. These two live out a quote by Will Arthur Ward: A mediocre music teacher tells while a good one explains. A superior teacher demonstrates, but a great music teacher inspires. Stiles & Zwarensteyn continue to practice what they’ve been preaching well into retirement, and in this case, performing with the Calder City Concert Band.
Calder City Concert Band playing on Thursday, July 21 during Farm Night! located in downtown Sparta, by the Gazebo near Town Square! 80 N. Union Street
Originally known as the Middleton Brass Band, tonight’s group was formed in 1983 at the Middleton Music Store in Grand Rapids. In the mid-‘90s the group re-organized and coined its current name. All performers, including the directors, are volunteers.
As for the first of the local legends*, Robert Stiles came to the Calder City Concert Band after his retirement from the Michigan public school system in 1997. From then until his decision to step down from the band in 2014, he had been one of the band's directors when he was not playing his trumpet.
Graduating from Olivet Nazarene University with a BS in Music Ed., Stiles later earned a Masters in Instrumental Music from U of M. He spent 36 years in public education, teaching Vocal and Instrumental Music. His (first) teaching career was equally split between directing in Sparta and Belding. In retirement, he next worked with the West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts Association, directing various levels of band and choir and earning numerous awards along the way.
Bob is most proud of two major highlights during his teaching career. The Sparta Marching Band was the escort band for President Ford’s arrival in Grand Rapids in 1976. He also took the Belding Marching Band to Ireland in 1988 to march the "honor" position for the millennial celebration of Dublin.
Jim Zwarensteyn taught music for 32 years, 27 of which were in Sparta where he taught senior, junior, and beginning bands. He was also 39 years with the Michigan Army National Guard. Retiring as a First Sergeant, he performed with the nationally acclaimed 126th Army Band in nine countries as well as extensively in Michigan and other states. Jim also directed the Grand Rapids Recreation Department Pops Orchestra for 10 years.
A 1975 GVSU grad, Jim majored in music, playing french horn in bands and orchestras. He received his MA degree from CMU and has played in many ensembles in the West Michigan area including the Grand Rapids Symphonic Band (charter member), Grand River Winds, WM Savoyards Orchestra, Calvin Community Symphony Orchestra, and numerous other groups.
Robert Stiles and Jim Zwarensteyn are the real deal. If their teaching piqued your interest in music and inspired you to continue in some manner, come on out and let them know it. Bring your lawn chair to sit back and be further inspired as they and their band perform for you, their appreciative public.
*Information was largely gleaned from the Calder City Concert Band Facebook Page where you can get more complete bios on the band itself and its two esteemed members!