Shore Band Still Strong in 40th Year
Director James Bast conducts Concert Band with musicians of all ages

On Tuesday nights at the Margaret E. Vetter elementary school in Eatontown, the night custodians hear lots of beautiful music while they work. The 75 member Greater Shore Concert Band, under the superb direction of 18 year veteran James R. Bast, practices a fine assortment of challenging musical compositions. Classical, pop, jazz and romantic compositions are researched with care, and the band has become known for its class A concerts.

Founded in 1967 by band director, musicologist and educator, Dr. Henry Melnik, this diverse group of musicians has one basic objective: to unite interests and talents of students and adults in “making music together” for the listening pleasure of music lovers. Ranging in age from 9 to 90 at one point, this group is made up of many professions and vocations including doctors, lawyers, band directors, engineers, teachers, homemakers, businesspersons, middle school, high school and college students. The common denominator regardless of age is that all players exercise their best efforts to have fun while playing challenging music of all periods and styles.

The founder, Dr. Henry Melnik, born in Newark, NJ, devoted his entire life to music first as a teacher in Newark during the 30’s and 40’s, and in the 60’s at Westminster Choir College in Princeton. Having earned two doctoral degrees, he started the music department at Shore Regional High School, West Long Branch, founded the Newark Conservatory of Music, conducted musicals on Broadway and worked in TV and radio. With the help and encouragement of his wife, Florence, he founded the Greater Shore Concert Band in 1967 which was the love of his life until his final years. Dr. Melnik passed away in June of 1988, at which time James Bast lifted the baton and has been leading the band since.

Jim Bast, the true heart and soul of this outstanding group, taught instrumental music at Wall Intermediate School for 35 years before his retirement in 2005. A native of Pennsylvania, Jim came to the shore area to serve in the army band at Fort Monmouth, graduated from Gettysburg College and earned his Masters degree in Music Education from Temple University. His wife Pat was the group’s sole piccolo player and his inspiration to provide the band with a relaxed, although hard-working atmosphere which permeates rehearsals. He introduced contemporary composers which has added a new facet to the performances. “The joy of taking a selection and then with diligent work, forming it into a polished piece of music is what I bring to the band. I enjoy the camaraderie and friendship I have made here.” After his wife’s passing in 2005, the band has performed a Children’s Concert in her honour each October at their church, Atonement Lutheran in Asbury Park.

“Jim is an excellent leader who is passionate about the band”, says Joe Morgan a clarinet player.

A member since 1981 playing the euphonium and baritone horn, Joseph Frankie is quoted “The band has greatly improved under Jim’s leadership. I will never forget Dr. Melnik’s dedicated to the band and his love for music.”

Nick Lucas, first trombone player and member for 19 years says, “Jim is fair and one of the best conductors I have had the privilege to play under. Since joining the band, I have grown both musically and personally and encourage anyone with talent to come and experience the fun and camaraderie.”

John Morton, Associate Conductor, first alto saxophone player and 25 year member says, “Jim’s experience with this group and his willingness to organize tours for the band has made this group notable.”

In addition to performing winter holiday concerts and spring concerts in local venues, the band members enjoy a year-end dinner celebration as well as European tours for those who wish to travel. About 25 band members and their families recently spent Easter week touring Italy, and were in Rome on Easter Sunday. Every few years, Jim organizes a trip abroad and the past two trips included performances in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, England and Scotland.

In 1989, John Morton became the band’s first announcer/narrator – a concept that met favorably with the members and audience. During the eight concerts the band performs each year, sax player Dr. Ronald Cohen, who now holds this position, gives an interesting and sometimes amusing history of each selection and its composer. Plenty of audience interaction and well-rehearsed compositions delight audiences of all ages.

To celebrate the band’s 40th anniversary, Scott Shelsta, Arthur Pryor impressionist, will be guest starring at the annual concert, 8pm Saturday, May 12, 2007 at Wall High School, 18th Avenue and New Bedford Road. Shelsta was the premier trombone soloist with the US Army Band since 1974 and, authentically dressed as Arthur Pryor of West Long Branch, plays turn-of-the-century solos with wind accompaniment – Pryor re-enactments.

From its inception, the band has been family oriented. Parents and children, brothers and sisters, even grandparents all have been involved. The band has seen courting and marriage, birth, as well as students growing up and moving on to college. Each year, this self-supporting, non-profit organization awards scholarships to several of the college-bound high school seniors. Concert fees and generous donations from sponsors and patrons continue to support the band, and a very able staff of volunteer officers and an executive board provide guidance for the band’s continuance and success.

In the words of Altha Morton, percussionist and vocal soloist, “I love the way new members are welcomed by everyone. Younger members are helped and supported by the older, more accomplished players.”

Jim Humelsine, trombonist with the band 10 years and webmaster agrees, “I love the range of ages…I think the adults are great role models for the kids and the kids help the older members stay young.”

Herb Honnold recently dusted off his clarinet after a 45-year hiatus, joined the band and says,” I like the style of this band! I really appreciate starting on time and playing with direct, clear constructive criticism.”

Jeanne Fasano, flutist and Publicity Director for the band adds “Making music has always been a passion of mine and it’s wonderful to be a part of such a diverse group of people from all walks of life with one common interest. Having my teenage daughter play sax in the band is a great way for us to share time together in a hectic world.”

The Greater Shore Concert Band is always welcoming new members, young and old. Visit them on the web at Come to the 40th Anniversary Concert, May 12th at Wall High School and hear for yourself what keeps this group 40 years strong and still going. With Arthur Pryor selections, Jesus Christ Superstar, Benny Goodman, marches and more, this will be a wonderful showcase of some local talent.