The Bloomfield Civic Band was “born” on Friday, March 1, 1946, when more than 20 people brought music stands to the high school cafeteria. Sponsored by the Bloomfield Federation of Music, it joined its sister organizations the Symphony Orchestra, the Chorus, the Mandolin Orchestra, and the Men’s Glee Club. The purpose was twofold: to give playing opportunities to those who wished them, and to provide the community with enjoyable musical experiences. Directed by Walter Kurkewicz, the band made its debut July 4, 1946 in Bloomfield’s “Welcome Home Celebration,” playing for memorial services in the morning and a parade in the afternoon. Park concerts followed during the summer, and the first indoor performance was held Sunday, January 19, 1947.
Upon the retirement of Walter Kurkewicz in 1961, Ray Hartman, director of the high school band, was named to the post. Under his leadership the band’s membership grew, and its repertoire enlarged to include 20th century compositions. High school students were urged to participate, and one of the highlights of the 1960’s was a trip to the NY World’s Fair where the band performed at the NJ Pavilion.
Dr. Morton Achter of Bloomfield College replaced the retiring Hartman for one year. There were some problems, though, and the band ranks begin to dwindle.
When Dominick Ferrara III stepped on the podium in September, 1972, he found a very loyal core of 15-20 musicians eager to help him rebuild the band. A devotee of band music, he led the Civic Band for 41 successful years until his retirement in 2013. He is a graduate of Montclair State College (1960), has a Master’s Degree from New York University (1965), and taught music in the Secaucus Schools for 35 years. He was Chief Warrant Officer and Bandmaster of the 50th Armored Division Band of the NJ Army National Guard. The 50th Armored Division Band was awarded the Eisenhower Trophy for most outstanding company size unit in the NJ Army National Guard, 1968, 1969, and 1970.
The next chapter in the story of the Bloomfield Civic Band began in the Fall of 2013, when Conductor Frank Ortega joyfully took the podium to lead the band into the future.
Frank Ortega has been a freelance tubist in the New York Metropolitan area for the last 20 years. His teachers have included Don Butterfield, Toby Hanks, Scott Mendoker, and Floyd Cooley.
Mr. Ortega attended the Manhattan School of Music where he received his Bachelor Degree in Tuba Performance. A merit scholarship from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music led him to a Master of Music Degree as well.
While in San Francisco, he performed with the San Jose Symphony, San Francisco Concerto Orchestra, Napa Valley Symphony, Golden Gate Concert Band and toured with the Cornerstone Brass Quintet.In 1995, Frank received the Patricia Roberts Harris Fellowship to study at Rutgers University, where he recorded several CDs with the Wind Ensemble and earned his teaching credential.Mr. Ortega served as principal tuba in the Garden State Philharmonic from 1999-2006 and in 2005, was featured on a recital series at Hofstra University. In April of 2007, he appeared on a Christmas album, “ Have Yourself a Brassy Little Christmas” which features the Imperial Brass Band and soloists Joseph Alessi, Trombone and Warren Vache, trumpet.
During the summer, he serves as tuba teacher and brass ensemble coach for the New York Summer Music Festival in Oneonta, NY. He is currently principal Tubist with the Chelsea Symphony and recently made his orchestral conducting debut with that orchestra.