NOTE: The Old Pros practice most Sunday evenings from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the T.J. Anderson Lounge on the lower level of NRCC's Martin Hall.
Tom Dobyns had an idea, a dream. Tom was a former band director for both Radford High School and the Virginia Tech Regimental Band, The Highty Tighties. He and several friends had played in bands following World War II and were interested in playing the Big Band sounds again. Tom approached Larry Long, one of his former high school students, who was teaching music at New River Community College. By mid-December 1972 they had invited several area musicians to participate in a group that would be a part of Continuing Education at New River.
The Band's organization meeting took place Super Bowl Sunday, January 16, 1973. Seven musicians played that evening directed by Larry Long:
J. B. Brillheart - piano
Wiley Cave - saxophone
Tom Dobyns - saxophone
Jiggs Durham - trumpet
Bill Durham - piano
Henry Martin - alto saxophone
Luther Repass - guitar
By the second rehearsal, Robert (Lock) Lowman had joined on trumpet and Jon Wyatt had joined on saxophone.
Getting The OLD PROS off the ground and playing was no easy task! Some music was borrowed from area high schools, along with a few instruments, music stands, etc. Much credit for the band's ability to survive the early day goes to Wiley Cave of Roanoke, VA. Not only did Wiley drive from Roanoke for each rehearsal and performance, but he loaned the band his baritone sax. He eventually sold this horn and a tenor sax to the band. He offered extra section rehearsals to the sax section, purchased vinyl music folders and also purchased over 200 pieces of music for the band. Many of these pieces are still in our books.
The band, unnamed at the time, made its first performance on May 3, 1973 for a Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce banquet. The name, OLD PROS, was soon selected based on the fact that many of the musicians were members of the area's professional community.
As the band began charging a fee to perform, the $10 tuition/membership fee was dropped. All fees went back into the band to cover the expenses of music, instruments, music stands, blazers, lighting and transportation to and from performances.
The year 1983 marked the 10th anniversary of The OLD PROS. The band traveled to Roanoke where it was showcased on Polly Ayers' noontime show on WDBJ 7. When the station began its HOMETOWN HEROES program, The OLD PROS were featured as one of WDBJ's early heroes. Again, in 1997, The Old PROS were recognized by the station for Outstanding Service to the community.
The OLD PROS Band has been conducted by very talented and dedicated directors:
Larry Long - 1973-1984
Charlie Davis - 1984-1991
Don Knox - 1991-1992
John Coggiola - 1992-1994
Ronnie Ingle - 1994
Mildred Stafford - 1995-1996
Thurlowe Scudder - 1996-2007
Wilbur Grant - 2007-2012
Dean Chiapetto - 2012-Present
Over the past 40 years The OLD PROS have performed for a variety of events and groups including:
The Old Pros formed a Steering Committee during the early 1990's. This group is made up of musicians who are a cross-section of the band. They represent the interests of the entire group, meeting on a regular basis to discuss the concerns and needs of the band. Band decisions are made by the Steering Committee at these regular meetings. This enables the conductor to devote his time to the job of selecting programs and preparing the band for performances.
As an all-volunteer organization the band remains dedicated to preserving and performing the Big Band sounds as envisioned by The OLD PROS founders in 1973. Today membership includes professionals, small business owners, teachers, retirees, and students. Their ages and musical backgrounds are as varied as their professions.
Each of the band members in the Old Pros has something unique to offer the band. Each one has a great love of the music and its performance. That love of the music shows in every performance.