In the Fall of 1963, a very ambitious, respected and beloved professional tuba player and instrumental music teacher, Russell Peters, with the support of several teachers in the area organized an adult community concert band, which became known as The South Oakland Concert Band. Dr. Harry Begian, former band director at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Wayne State University, Michigan State University and The University of Illinois was the conductor for the first year. The band flourished for the next four years under the leadership of Mr. Herbert Couf, who played clarinet with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and is known in the area for instruments bearing his name and for his ownership of Royal Music Center in Royal Oak.
During the next five years, for a lack of leadership and sponsorship, the band lay dormant. In the Fall of 1972, Walter Mison, then Band Director at Berkley High School, and clarinetist in the Detroit Concert Band was asked by Oakland Community College, Royal Oak Campus system, to organize a community band. Several former members of the original band had been contacting Mr. Mison, indicating a desire to see the band reorganized. Community orchestras offered only limited oppurtunity for adult wind and percussion players. The time was ripe! Community bands of Plymouth and Farmington had sprung up and were flourishing. Southeast Oakland County needed a band!
In 1994, Oakland Community College administration decided to discontinue the college‘s relationship with the band. After his 22 years of dedicated service, Mr. Mison retired as band director. A meeting of band members was held and they decided to continue the band as an incorporated, non-profit organization. Rev. Herb Glenn was named the band‘s first President. Herb is a retired minister, and a long time trombonist in the band. Herb and the new Board of Directors named Mr. George Gillespie, a retired Band Director from the Royal Oak Schools, as the new SOCB Director of Music, and Mrs. Betty Hixon as Assistant Director of the Concert Band and Director of the Jazz Band.
In 2000, Betty Hixon died after a long illness. Mr. James Gregory was named the Assistant Director of the Concert Band and Director of the Jazz Band. In 2003, George Gillespie decided to retire after 9 seasons with the band, and 45 continuous years of directing bands. Richard Perkins, retired Dondero High School Band Director was named the new Director of Music. George has remained in the band as a trombonist.
Following the death of Mr. Perkins in 2006, James Conaton, retired Kimball High School Band Director was named the new Director of Music. In 2008, James Gregory resigned and Mr. Phil Lombard was named the director of the Jazz Band which was re-named The Woodward Avenue Jazz Orchestra. In 2010, Jim Conaton retired and Mr. Roy Johnson was named Director of Music. Currently, the director of the Woodward Avenue Jazz Orchestra is Mr. James Cann, and the director of the Concert Band is Mr. Kevin Czarnik.
The Royal Oak Concert and Jazz Bands now proudly boast a strong membership of 80+ members and a concert schedule including 7-10 concerts annually. The South Oakland Concert Band changed it's name to The Royal Oak Concert Band in 2013. The Royal Oak Concert Band is always looking for new members.