His Labor of Love
By Bill Canup
Review Staff Writer, 1969
Edited 2001 by Curt Cassingham
Photos by Gene Howard
His musical background
in Canada began when his mother, who sang and played piano, started him
on the piano. "I was the oldest of four boys, so I got the lessons
first," he said. He studied piano for four years until his mother
said "it's your brother's turn now." Shortly after he stopped the
piano lessons, a neighbor brought an old, beat-up trombone to him.
"We need you to play in the Army Reserve Band," the neighbor said.
Roberts was then in junior high school. He joined the band knowing
very little about how to play the trombone, but he learned. "I played
it about ten years," Roberts said. That band experience gave him
a background for his work with the boys' band.
After high school, Roberts worked two years as a carpenter and four years as a mechanic. During those years he kept up his musical interest, playing "Saturday night jobs" with dance bands and organizing orchestras for Sunday afternoon concerts as well as playing with the Army band. But the lure of music as a career was strong. He and his wife sold their house and came to Hollywood. "There are only half a dozen cities in the country where a man can make a living as a professional musican," Roberts said. "Los Angeles was the closest." He enrolled at the Hollywood Music College and there received, for the first time, lessons in trombone, although he had been playing the instrument for years. He also studied other aspects of music. Musical education was not available at his high school in Canada. He moved to Burbank six years ago when he decided he could make a living in the music field.
He became director
of the boys band through a friend, Jim Porter, the son of Ben Porter, former
band director. Roberts and young Porter became friends when they
both played a live show at Lake Tahoe one summer. Porter's father
was seeking a capable Burbanker to take his place as band leader.
"He gave me a call and I took the job," Robers said. He spends three
hours each Monday night rehearsing with the band, made up of boys from
12 to 20 years old.
He said he tries to help the boys musically as much as he can, although they all are taking lessons as an entrance requirement for the group. "Rehearsal is a group music lesson," Roberts said, "I only add to what the boys are learning from their music teachers."
He spends as many as 10 additional hours a week in other activities related to the band. Roberts had no experience at marching when he took over the job, so he had to learn quickly. The band has won many awards and trophies in competition. "We usually take first or second place," the director said. They have won a number of sweepstakes trophies.
Roberts believes only one or two of the boys he has led will ever be professional musicians. "Playing in the band is fun for most boys. Few have shown that extra drive it takes to become a professional. Being a successful professional requires long hours and hard work, because only the best can succeed. Being able to make a career out of playing an instrument requires a precision and finesse that is rare."
He plans to keep working with the band if his own career does not expand so greatly that he has no time for it. He said he could spend the 15 hours a week he uses in band work at career activites now.
The Roberts have three children -- Debra, 9; Chris, 7; and Terry, 5. Debra is taking piano lessons, but the boys haven't shown an interest in music yet. "I gave them an old trumpet to play with," Roberts said, "but nothing has happened yet."
Police Boys Band Director David Roberts enjoys watching the youngsters he leads grow up. He says most play an instrument for the sheer enjoyment they receive from it. Few make music their profession because it requres a precision and finesse that is rare.
[Far left flutist is Curt on flute. Same row, the first clarinetist (playing 3rd Clarinet) from left is Bill Byers, Brian Cassingham, Bruce Baxter, Rob Stirling, Paul Kosty, and Roger Mills. Mike Berg is looking toward the camera, and to his left is Mike Lafayette, and 1st Clarinet Russ Coplin is in the sweater. Bob Lanning presides over the bass drum on the right]