Not long ago, the Orange County Businessman's Band was just another group of struggling amateur musicians. During a series of mishaps, their borrowed uniforms were stolen and they lost the minimal funding they were receiving through a local college's community services program. Membership fluctuated like the stock market.
But after performing the "William Tell" Overture on KLOS-FM's popular Mark and Brian morning show in March, the 30-member band is finally getting into the limelight.
After a live performance at the KLOS studio in Los Angeles, they continued on location with their hosts, who boarded an RTD bus traveling up La Cienega Boulevard. They played the overture again while Mark and Brian interviewed startled passengers about their sex lives.
Then they sped off in the Mark and Brian Mobile to an impromptu appearance on the "AM Los Angeles" television show.
The group's director, Doug Thompson, is still getting calls from friends who heard the broadcasts and the band has gained several new members as a result.
Now they're a hot act on the local circuit. They'll appear at the Costa Mesa Lions Club Fish Fry in June, at the Orange County Fair on July 20 and are booked to play at the opening of the Thomas F. Riley Terminal at the Orange County Airport. "But now no one knows exactly when it's going to be finished," said Thompson.
The group is the latest incarnation of a band formed by Thompson more than 10 years ago. Its name has changed at least six times over the years, but its purpose has always been the same.
"Playing music is a great stress reliever. I wanted to provide a way for people to unwind after work and keep their musical skills sharp," said Thompson, a customer service representative at Garden Grove Toyota.
"Many people put years into learning to play an instrument, only to set it aside when they leave school and go to work," said Thompson. "The old trombone just sits in the garage gathering dust," he said.
The group is not just for male members of the pinstripe set. It includes a cross-section of male and female professionals at various career stages. Some drive from as far as Rancho Santa Margarita to attend the group's raucous practices on Thursday nights at the Costa Mesa High School band room.
"Some guys go bowling. But I'd rather play music," said Fabien Durache, a designer at Kennard, Herbage & Associates architectural firm in Santa Ana. "It's relaxing and it takes me back to my high school days," he said.
In fact, Durache spent many hours in the same band room as a student at Costa Mesa High. "The band instructor used to throw his baton at us," he said.
His former instructor is now teaching karate, but a sign on his old office sums up the reason Durache is still around. It reads: "Without Music, Life Would Be a Mistake."