Before she raises her hands to conduct, Shanna Holland addresses her charges.
"Take it a little faster this time," said Holland, conductor of the new Eastern Hillsborough County Community Band. "It was cooking in the beginning, but you tend to drag it down."
"It's the baritones," shouted a man from behind a horn.
"No, it's the clarinets," another horn player said.
The room erupted in laughter.
The fun and banter continued throughout the practice on a recent Thursday night at Grace Community United Methodist Church in Lithia. The band members, who will hold a Christmas concert Thursday, mesh together as though they've been playing for years.
It has been a long time — some say 27 years — since eastern Hillsborough County had a community band, the new group's organizers said. Back then, it was called the Brandon Family Community band and consisted of high school band players and their parents. The group split in 1988, when many of the high school students lost interest.
Bobby Rodriguez, 62, remembers it well. He was in the band. Now he's back for round two.
Kim McCullers, who helped start the new group, said the musicians came together with little prodding.
By May, nine players got together just by word of mouth. They practiced at Sunset Heights Methodist Church in Plant City but quickly outgrew that location. By September, the group grew to about 25 members.
Holland, a University of South Florida music major who graduates this month, volunteered to conduct the group within 30 minutes of band members posting a "conductor wanted" ad on Craigslist.
The all-volunteer band, which welcomes musicians of all ages and experience levels, features horns, brass, woodwinds, a percussionist and an electric bass guitar player. Among them are professional musicians such as: Darryl Bayley, who plays the clarinet, Joe Reilly, a retiree who played with the Army band and Kent Easton, a retired band teacher. The group's youngest member is Dylan McKenna, a bassoonist from Randall Middle School.
The most important requirement to join the band, its leaders say, is instrumentalists must love to play.
"Last night I watched a husband dancing on his knees next to his wife in a wheelchair while I played a Glen Miller song with another band I belong to," said Rodriguez, who plays the saxophone. "It's very fulfilling to see people enjoy the music. That's what it's all about."
Traci Rader can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.