Two years after being asked to take over as conductor of the Harpswell Community Band following Bob Modr’s retirement, John Morneau is finally officially wielding his baton.

Conductor John Morneau said the Harpswell Community Band “shouldn’t just be a Harpswell secret.” Contributed / John Morneau

Because the band was unable to rehearse together for a while due to COVID, Morneau and the band members didn’t really get started until April. 

They had a concert in June and were meant to have one in July as well, but it was rained out. 

Because the band only has three concerts per season, it was difficult rehearsing for so many months and then having a concert get canceled, he said.

“It’s a lot riding on three concerts,” said Morneau, who is the concert band conductor at Bowdoin College.

He hopes to expand the number of concerts the band performs in coming years as well as perform beyond Harpswell.


“It shouldn’t just be a Harpswell secret,” he said. 

“This group is extremely dedicated and plays really well,” he said. “After our first concert, a lot of people were really pleased and impressed with the level of performance of the group for a community band.”

The band has 40 players – there isn’t much room for many more than that on the bandstand – and Morneau said there is a good balance of instruments.

It performs a wide variety of music ranging from classical to marches and show tunes, but what stands out to him the most are its slow and expressive songs. 

“That’s when you really learn about people and their ability to be expressive and sensitive toward music,” he said. “That’s the true measure of a musician, and they’ve played them beautifully.” 

Modr approached Monreau about taking over for him as conductor.


“I did it partly out of respect for Bob and partly because I like working with adult bands,” Morneau said. 

Morneau taught public school for 43 years, and this fall will be is 35th year as the band conductor at Bowdoin College. He is a woodwind player, mainly saxophone, clarinet and flute, and plays in a number of bands. 

He said he was moved recently when a band member told him that “the real experience is the rehearsals, because that’s where we really get to grow. The concerts are just like dessert.” 

While he agrees with this, he said performing live is always exciting because “once you get on stage, you don’t know what’s going to happen.” 

The band’s next and final concert of the season is Sept. 1 on the bandstand in Harpswell.

Comments are not available on this story.