Walla Walla Community Band was formed in 1989, primarily as a concert band, and has played continuously ever since. The idea of forming a community band was that of two employees of the Army Corps of Engineers, Mark Marty and Larry Pfefferle. They quickly gained enthusiastic support from other adult community members seeking a way to play band music for their own and the community’s enjoyment. The first rehearsal was in March of 1989 with the inaugural performance at the Walla Walla Balloon Stampede that same year.
Conductors have included area musicians Dale Newby, Bill Gilbert, Glen Mitchell, Meredith Mitchell, Linda Howell, Glen Gilbreath and Ron McHenry. We are currently in search of a new conductor. The conductor and assistant conductor are paid a small stipend to help defray their expenses; these are the only paid positions of the Bands.
The Band played gratis at the Milton-Freewater Summer Music Series for two years after the City discontinued funding the series. The Band has also played free of charge for the Summer Music series sponsored by the Walla Walla Downtown Foundation, the Art Train in Walla Walla, the Balloon Stampede, the 100th anniversary celebration for Walla Walla General Hospital, the 100th anniversary celebration of the Bandstand in Pioneer Park, the downtown reception for Great Race participants in 2005, the National Christmas Tree reception and other events. We have furnished a free ‘Pep Band’ for Whitman College basketball games and Walla Walla Sweets baseball games and serenade holiday shoppers in downtown Walla Walla and Milton-Freewater at the Parade of Lights.
In 2002 the band commissioned John Jayce Ogren to compose an original work for Concert Band that would reflect the Walla Walla Valley and its history. "Songs and Dances of the Valley" premiered in March, 2003 at Walla Walla Valley Academy, to great acclaim.
Also in 2002 a Jazz Ensemble was formed and quickly grew to be an audience favorite. This was so successful that a second jazz group was added in 2009. In 2004 the groups began offering full concert jazz programs.
Beginning in 2007 the Walla Walla Valley Bands begin a new chapter thanks to a new partnership with Walla Walla Community College. The organization left the former rehearsal space of the Walla Walla High School band room with many fond memories. We are extremely grateful to the Walla Walla Public Schools for hosting us for 17 years!
Once settled into the new digs at Walla Walla Community College the organization continued to grow and in 2008 added an Assistant Conductor. Between 2007 and 2014, a successful fundraising campaign secured for the Walla Walla Valley Bands nearly $150,000 in new equipment and instruments. Acquisitions made possible by these grants include tuba, bassoon, oboe, two timpani and other percussion equipment, a full set of chairs, an acoustic shell and two substantial travel trailers.
In 2009-2010 the Walla Walla Valley Bands grew from 55 to nearly 80 musicians coming together on a weekly basis to rehearse music for its audiences to enjoy on a regular basis.
Since then, the Band has continued to grow in musicianship and outreach performances. In 2012 and 2014 a combined jazz band Jazz performed in to Prosser to raise money for their high school scholarship fund. In 2012 the full Concert Band traveled to Yakima for a combined concert with the Yakima Valley Community Band, who in turn joined WWVB in Walla Walla for a shared concert the following year. In 2013 the Concert Band also traveled to Lewiston, ID to perform with the Lewis and Clark Community Band. At the close of this season, Assistant Conductor Jesus Vasquez left the Bands to pursue his career elsewhere.
The 2013-14 season marked another period of growth in the Bands. With membership at nearly 80 musicians, the program moved from a music classroom to the new Performing Arts Auditorium. Conductor Ron McHenry bid us farewell after 11 eventful years of growth to pursue an opportunity in western Washington.
The group was re-named the Walla Walla Valley Bands in 2006 to better reflect the diversity of the geographic area from which the members are drawn and the addition of the Jazz program.
In March 2017, Walla Walla Valley Bands moved into a new rehearsal and performance space at Walla Walla Valley Academy in College Place.