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Making Musicians: A Key to Community

Pictured (l-r) is Jim Bernstein, Kathy Ryan, and Amy Olson from United Jewelry in Globe, a family owned business that has served the local music community for its entire 100-year history and has been a depot for Milano’s Music in Mesa for 20 years. The store rents and sells instruments, accessories and can do a wide array of tuning, service and repair. Photos by Patti Daley

Live music is the heartbeat of many community events in Globe-Miami – marching bands in the parades, pep bands at football and basketball games, community theater, indoor sit-down concerts, and dancing in the street.

“We have fun,” says Neto Vasquez, bandleader for Neto and Imagine, a favorite local dance band that gets people off their seats with classic rock, country, cumbias, and more. “We’ve been playing at the fiestas in Miami for a long time.”

Together since 2012, they occasionally play at Globe’s First Friday and have been doing more events in Superior. Last month they played at Gila County Historical Museum’s hamburger fry fundraiser. The average age of the six-player band is over 75. Most grew up in Miami during an era of live music played on front porches, all the kids learning guitar. 

“The groups around have been around for a while, formed from other groups,” says Neto. “I don’t see a lot of new ones coming in.”

How Music Passes On

The Globe-Miami Centennial Band performs about four times a year. They play concert and jazz music. Co-founder Kathleen Mercer would like to see more people in the audience. 

“It’s fun. It’s free. It’s a good thing to get people out of the house, and you don’t even have to talk!”

Kathleen began playing music at age 9, with her sisters. Their father, the late John Mercer, played in the City Band until it dissolved, after a 100-year history, in 1995. In 2011, Kathleen, her father, and her husband, Nolan Frost, founded the Globe-Miami Centennial Band. Many of the older band members of the Centennial Band got their start in City Band.

A member of GHS class of ’72, Kathleen recalls the era of Milton B. “Nunie” Nunamaker, GHS’s band director from 1954 to 1970. He ran a six-week summer program for all student musicians, 5th grade and up. It met in the morning, and players were expected to be punctual and attentive – and they were taught to perform. The marching band boasted 70 members and won a record 13 straight Superior awards in state competition. A couple of music directors continued the program before it ended.

In addition to directing the Globe-Miami Centennial Band, Nolan Frost has been music director at Miami Jr.-Sr. High School since 2010 and currently teaches around 27 students. There is currently no marching band. Nolan is “really good” on the flute, according to Kathleen and plays sax with the pep band. Sometimes he has to carpool kids to games or home after practice. Kathleen kicks in her support by cooking and serving up food to raise funds for the band.

“I have to sell bean burros and nachos at the football game because I am the one member of the band booster club,” she says.

Benefits of Music Education

Rebecca Shurtliff, founder of the Music Academy in downtown Globe.

Research indicates that music training improves cognitive and non-cognitive skills more than sports.

“Music lessons teach you to learn,” says Rebecca Shurtliff, founder of Music Academy in downtown Globe. “Music lessons teach you that it’s okay to make mistakes, to be corrected. It teaches a growth mindset.”

This is so important in all of life, she emphasizes, because it builds character.

“It’s knowing that I can do hard things,” says Rebecca. “I can learn to do things that I couldn’t do before.”

Music accelerates brain development in young children, particularly areas responsible for processing sound, language development, and reading skills. For adolescents, music training contributes to improved creativity and confidence, boosts mental health and emotional stability, and improves their overall grades.

This year, Globe students receive music instruction via Zoom, with live instruction twice a month, through a program named Music Learning Band.

Deborah Yerkovich signed up her 10-year-old son for the Copper Rim Elementary 5th grade band class. He’s learning to play the saxophone. 

He wasn’t particularly interested in taking music classes.

“I told him it would be good for his math,” she says. “That’s all it took. He loves math.”

It’s early in the program, and according to Deborah, not requiring too much parent involvement. 

“He’s learning about his instrument and how to read music,” says Deborah. I’m so impressed by that.”

As a student in the first class at Copper Rim Elementary, Deborah received music instruction in the same exact room where her son now learns the saxophone. 

“When I was growing up, the high school marching band would march up and down the street, practicing for the parade,” recalls Deborah. “Because they were visible, it made a powerful impact.”

Downtown Music Rentals

Pictured (l-r) is Jim Bernstein, Kathy’s son Nickolas, Kathy Ryan, Amy Olson, Janice Marlowe, the crew from United Jewelry in Globe.

Learning to play an instrument takes practice, but it’s easy to get started. United Jewelry at 135 N. Broad Street in Globe has served as a depot for Milano’s Music in Mesa for 20 years.

“People can order online and come here for their instrument,” explains Kathy Ryan, co-owner. “They can exchange it here for a different instrument, or get their instrument tuned or repaired.”

Music has been a part of this family-owned business for its entire 100-year history. Though a small part of their revenue, music occupies a big space in their showroom and puts out a happy vibe. They sell mostly guitars and all the accessories – amplifiers, picks, microphones, cases, strings. They service the string instruments and tune guitars.

This year saw a surge in the rental of musical instruments, mostly junior high kids. Trumpets have been popular, according to Jim Bernstein, the shop’s “music man.” The shop also rents flutes, clarinets, and saxophones. Jim plays guitar every afternoon, before closing, jamming with YouTube videos.

“That’s how I keep learning,” he says. “Find the key and try to follow along.”

An Emotional Lift

Rebecca Shurtliff has been singing her whole life and played piano before she could read. She began teaching piano lessons at age 16 and took music courses in college.

“I always loved my lessons,” she says. “Learning the theory opened up a whole new world of discovery and excitement.”

She loves seeing the same excitement in her students, ages infant to 18. The “bread and butter” of her business is ages 4 to 6. She teaches group piano lessons for 7 and up.

“Kids get the best music education that I can offer,” she says. “It’s playful and fun, but they also develop theory and musicality skills that most adults don’t have.”

Rebecca is developing a choir program on Friday afternoons. Her main focus for the choir is ages 10 to 18, though she also is developing a choir for kids 5 to 9. 

She learned a lot from her own experience in high school choir and loves to sing with her five kids, ages 1 through 11.

“When I’m at my wits end, I sing a silly song that my dad taught me and we’ll laugh and have fun instead of being mad at them,” she says. “Or sometimes it’s a song from high school choir that gets me through a tough day.”

Join the Band

The Globe-Miami Centennial Band has been invited to play at the homecoming game, in the parade, and at the Globe Alumni event. They’ve played at graduations for San Carlos High School and Gila Pueblo Community College.

Currently, the number of Centennial band members is down. A few of their best players have moved away, their 89-year-old trombone player retired, and the number of younger players has declined due in part to the disruption of local music and band programs during the pandemic. Last year there were no students from GHS in the community band.

“Anyone who wants to play is welcome,” says Kathleen Mercer. “You don’t have to pay anything to play.”

The band rehearses August through May on Thursday nights at the Miami Jr.-Sr. High School auditorium. The side door is kept open, and visitors are welcome. 

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