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Marching With the Pros

Local musicians tour area with professional marching band in summer

June 28, 2009
By SHAWN M. TOMLINSON, The Leader-Herald

When most people think of marching bands, they tend to picture high school students.

Not so with the Red Caps Marching Band, one of only a handful of professional marching bands in the region.

"We're almost 50 years old," said Manager Miriam Kewley-Vosburgh Thursday.

Article Photos

Photo contributed
Ed Conway, left, who plays the cymbals, and his son, Evan, who plays the snare drum, perform in the Red Caps Marching Band in Lake George recently.

Kewley-Vosburgh said the group, which has several local members, evolved from the New Baltimore Firehouse Band in the early 1960s.

"[It] became the Hudson-Mohawk-Schoharie or HMS Valley Marching Band," Kewley-Vosburgh said. "Most of the members were from the Hudson Valley corridor."

Kewley-Vosburgh's husband, George Vosburgh of Broadalbin, took over the band when previous Musical Director John Hemmingford retired in 1998. George Vosburgh retained the position until his death at the end of 2006.

"I didn't want to see it end, so I took it over with the 2007 season," Kewley-Vosburgh said. "I'm not a musical director; I'm only the manager."

She coordinates the band's 12 to 13 parades per year from Albany to Lake George and all around the region.

"This is my 10th season," said Evan Conway, 24, of Amsterdam. "I got involved in 2000. We don't rehearse."

Conway said whenever he arrives at a parade site, there are several people "with a knowledge of the music" who can get the musicians up to speed, he said. He plays the snare drum.

Evan Conway also got his dad, Ed, involved in the band.

"We took him to all these parades," Ed Conway said Wednesday.

He said Kewley-Vosburgh suggested he play the cymbals, "kind of jokingly."

"But they were serious," he said.

"We have a lot of fun," Edward Conway said. "It's nice doing something with my son."

He said his family, including wife, Kathy, get to the parade sites about an hour before the starting time.

"We run through the music," he said. "The musicians are fantastic. Because of that core group of people, it works."

Kewley-Vosburgh said it's sometimes hard to coordinate the same musicians every time, so she does call school music teachers and conscript volunteer replacements. She said she generally picks people 18 and older, and the band has some members now in their upper 70s.

"People don't do this for the money," she said. "We get paid enough to give each person $50 to $60 each, and some money to fix [damaged] instruments."

She said usually 21 to 23 musicians participate in each of the parades per season, but the group has performed with as few as 18 or 19.

The Red Caps recently peformed in Lake George and have parades scheduled through October.

Kewley-Vosburgh said people usually stay with the band, even if they started in their teens, unless they move away.

Evan Conway said he plans to keep playing.

"I can't imaging a summer without it," he said.

Shawn M. Tomlinson is the Sunday editor of The Sunday Leader-Herald. He can be reached at



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