Last year was anything but normal for everyone, but for those who perform on stage, it was particularly difficult.

Manchester Civic Band director Samantha Howard said last summer they practiced in a barn with all of the doors open while everyone sat 6 feet or more apart.

Howard said once they did return to their regular practices last fall from 7 to 8:30 or 9 p.m. Wednesdays in the Manchester High School band room, they had the chairs marked out and distanced.

Now with their 49th year in full swing, Howard said many members of the group have been vaccinated “but not all.”

“Most have voluntarily disclosed their vaccination, or not, status,” said Howard, on Tuesday. “I have not made a point of asking though. It has been disclosed in general conversation.”

The band’s first performance of the year was their annual appearance at the Memorial Day service hosted by the North Manchester American Legion Post No. 286 in Holderman Park in North Manchester.

Howard said they typically hold three concerts per year at the Peabody Retirement Community and Timbercrest Retirement Community. This year will be no different as performances at Peabody Retirement Community have been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, June 23, Sept. 22 and Dec. 1. This year’s Timbercrest Retirement Community performances have been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, June 30, Sept. 29 and Dec. 8.

Howard said they usually perform on a semi-trailer bed during the North Manchester Fun Fest parade and at Doud’s Orchard Open House in Denver, Indiana. In addition, Howard said they had tentatively scheduled performances for 5:30 p.m. Saturday, June 26 for alumni at Pierceton Elementary School, this year’s Independence Day celebration at Manchester University; Saturday, July 31 at the North Manchester Summerfest parade; and Saturday, Oct. 2 for a concert at Harvest Fest.

Howard said the all-volunteer, amateur band was organized by Harold and Mary Lou Leckrone and their daughter, Pat Egolf, in 1972.

“After Harold’s passing in 1987, the band leadership transitioned and eventually Reg Smith took the baton,” said Howard.

Howard said after 30-plus years directing the band, Smith decided to step back.

Now Howard is “setting the beat.”

“We gladly welcome any musicians from junior high age on up and any instruments,” said Howard. “Don’t worry if it has been a while since you played, many of us came back to the band after decades of not playing. Don’t have an instrument? We may be able to help in locating one for you to use, rent or maybe even buy.”

Howard said as they are a volunteer organization the numbers fluctuate. However, Howard said at their last concert in 2020 they had 10 members, including two flutes, one clarinet, one alto sax, one tenor sax, two trumpets, one trombone, one tuba “and myself directing.”

Rob Burgess, Wabash Plain Dealer editor, may be reached by email at