Vaughn Pugh has enjoyed leading Chatham Concert Band

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A love for music has led a Chatham man into a three-decade leadership of the local concert band.

Vaughn Pugh has been the conductor for the Chatham Concert Band since 1984 after replacing his mentor Phil Carney, who had been bandmaster since 1960.

“(Carney) was an excellent musician,” said Pugh. “I learned a lot from him on conducting the band, and hopefully how to be successful as a bandmaster.”

Pugh said his love for music started early and recalls when his father would take him to the concert band performance at Tecumseh Park during his youth. Little did he suspect at the time that he would one day act as the band’s conductor.

Pugh began his musical training by taking piano lessons when he was 5-years-old, before taking up the trumpet at age 9.

“Since the time I was a little tyke, I didn’t know any different. (That) is what you did on Monday nights – you rehearse,” he said.

During his teen years, Pugh became part of the concert band’s junior section where he took up playing the French horn after a recommendation from Carney.

“(Carney) said, ‘You’re a good trumpet player, but trumpet players are a dime a dozen,’” said Pugh.

After taking private lessons Pugh said he learned he had “perfect pitch” and the French horn eventually became his premier instrument.

When Carney’s health began to deteriorate he suggested Pugh should succeed him as conductor.

Pugh said prior to taking the position, he actually had no aspirations to become the band’s conductor, or even a symphony musician. However, based on the urging of his mentor, Pugh took up the mantel as conductor after Carney passed away.

He said since then, he’s loved every minute.

“I didn’t want to see it go away or decline,” said Pugh. “I enjoy it so much and so many of the members do (as well). They have a real huge level of commitment to doing it.”

In the future, when the time comes, Pugh said he hopes to also pass the conductor’s torch onto another member of the concert band.

“There are some qualified individuals in the band who I hope would take it over,” he said. “I certainly don’t want to be the last, I want to be able to pass it on to someone.”

The Chatham Concert Band was first organized in 1927 and throughout the years has performed for the Queen of England, various prime ministers and Ontario premiers.

Members of the band range in age from teenagers to performers who are over 80 years old.

“I think concerts are a real gem for this area, it’s a real tradition,” said Pugh. “We do it for the love of music.”

The Chatham Concert Band will hold their next free performance at Tecumseh Park on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., which will feature the Legion Branch 28 Pipe Band as guest performers.

Pugh said the concerts offer up a little bit of everything such as a Broadway theme, Latin music, classical, and many other genres. He said television and film have also been inspiration for the band’s music as well.

“You get a real eclectic mix of our music, which is what I really like,” he said. “There’s a lot of good stuff out there, all sorts of different genres, and so many things cross over now that you don’t have to categorize everything.”

The band will hold approximately 10 concerts in Tecumseh Park each summer, and rehearse once a week throughout the year.

For more information on the Chatham Concert Band, visit