A flutist, a conductor and an arts activist walk into a cafe ...
This isn't the start of a joke. The three — flutist Theresa Marino, local conductor Bill Nicholls and Laguna Beach Arts Commission member Carol Reynolds — did gather at their favorite spot for a cup of coffee, friendship and a break from their career demands, but talk soon turned serious.
One made a comment about forming a group that would entertain audiences while supporting music education in conjunction with other artistic organizations.
Eighteen years later, that group — the Laguna Concert Band — has done just that and then some.
The volunteer nonprofit, which started with eight members, has grown to over 70 performers ranging from professional musicians and music instructors to ensemble players hailing from Laguna Beach and surrounding communities.
They've played with celebrated guest artists Lee Rocker of the Stray Cats, Grammy Award-winning producer Peter Asher (of Peter and Gordon fame) and principal tubist Gene Pokorny.
They've performed on local film soundtracks and recorded at Capitol Studios in Hollywood.
And they teach student musicians, whether through the band's summer school music program or at the Irvine Valley College Emeritus Institute, a collaboration coordinated by the band's associate conductor, Peter Fournier.
"If you want to play, we want to have you," said Craig Gordon, Laguna Concert Band president and executive director. "There's a place for everyone."
The group members, led by music director Ed Peterson, range in age from 20 to 88 years. Within the main group are subsets, including two, full 18-piece swing bands, flute and woodwind ensembles, a brass quintet and a Dixieland band.
Their next concert, at the Festival of Arts on Aug. 17, will showcase the group's 60-piece wind ensemble.
The group performs more than 20 concerts a year, including at the Sawdust Festival and Art-A-Fair.
But an important mission for the band is educational outreach.
For the past two years, the Laguna Concert Band has been involved with the Laguna Beach Unified School District, presenting joint performances with Thurston Middle School's band during the city's Holiday Hospitality Night and a concert with Laguna Beach High School instrumentalists at the Laguna Playhouse.
Recently, the band joined music students from El Morro and Top of the World elementary schools for a performance of "Star Wars" and other music.
Laguna Concert Band board member Jennifer Baker joined the group with her husband and daughter about five years ago. Baker works to connect the band to schools.
"Music is a great mind activity and especially wonderful for children to learn at a young age, because it gives them something to do and makes them smarter," Baker said.
With grants and donations, the band's community efforts have grown over the years, attracting local talent and more opportunities for children to learn and practice an instrument.
Supporting music education, fostering new talent and sharing it with the community will always be the mission of the band, Gordon and Baker said, because music has power to express the language of the mind and the heart.
"You pick up an instrument and it should be an ongoing learning process," Baker said. "Music is for life."
What: Laguna Concert Band Festival of Arts Concert
When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17
Where: Festival of Arts, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach