Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


June 10, 2012

Common sound

Out-of-state band members share love of music

BLUEFIELD — Alysa Bell and Shelly Molinary have three things in common; they are both members of the East River Mountain Town Band, have busy careers and use music as a stress reliever.

The two young women —Molinary lives in St. Paul, Va., and Bell recently moved from Myrtle Beach, S.C. — discovered the two Virginias community band, and decided to lend their instruments.

A second-year resident physician at Bluefield Regional Medical Center in internal medicine, Bell learned about the band from a fellow doctor.

“I mentioned to Dr. Mayank Amin, one of my attending physicians and mentors, that I missed being able to play music with an ensemble, and he knew about the band and found Mr. Saunders’ phone number,” Bell said.

Bell grew up in Myrtle Beach and began taking band in the sixth grade at her school. She wanted to play the trombone.

“I was told we already had too many trombone players, and it was suggested I try flute instead,” she said.

She took their advice and took private lessons in high school. She has been playing in the community band for nine months.

Molinary has a similar story, another thing in common with her fellow  band member.

“I play the euphonium, which is low brass. I started in fifth grade and it was the only instrument that was free to play,” Molinary said.

All of the other instruments were taken by fellow students. But she embraced the interesting instrument.

“It has a deeper sound and not a lot of people play it,” she added.

Here is where the comparisons ends, slightly.

Molinary’s degree is in music; Bell studied medicine.

“I got my degree in music from Morehead State in Kentucky. I was the first chair and was in every band they had, including the symphony band,” Molinary said.

After graduation, she accepted a job as a band teacher. She currently teaches at Clintwood High, Clintwood Elementary and Longsport Elementary in Virginia.

But she wanted more. Molinary, like Bell, wanted to continue to play. So when Dr. Charles Priest, an assistant professor at music at Bluefield College, came to visit her school, he also encouraged her to play for the East River Mountain Town Band.

“People think its cool that I have stuck with music for so long. They don’t understand why I drive an hour and a half to play. Most support me,” Molinary said.

Every Thursday, Molinary packs up her instruments and drives to Bluefield. She beats the boredom by singing and listening to the radio. Her fiancé makes the trip with her. She began playing in February and was excited to find an active band.

“They actually play,” she explained. “I have been in a lot of community bands where they didn’t play or play harder music”

The ERMT band plays throughout the year for a variety of holidays and special events throughout the two Virginias. Director Mel Saunders said the band plays eight to 10 times a year and practices every Thursday night for about four months.

“Right now, we have around 50 members,” Saunders said.

The ERMT band has been part of the community for 15 years. Former band students, college students, retirees, band teachers and more performed throughout the years.

Despite their different careers, both women believe music is a powerful tool in their personal lives.

“It helps me connect with other people. I get to meet new people and it is the thing that relaxes me the most after my work. It is a de-stressing tool,” Molinary said.

“My career is stressful, and music is a great diversion from the demands of my profession” Bell added. “My favorite part is being able to perform for others and give the community free exposure to the arts.”

The exposure to the band also gives Molinary another useful tool in the classroom.

“My students ask questions about music ... they can see me play or they can see my music and see how hard you have to work on it. It gives them a lot of motivation,” she said.

Molinary comes from a musical family. Both of her parents play music and her brother is a band teacher as well. In college, she learned how to play the flute, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, baritone, tuba, French horn, clarinet and percussion.

Saunders said it is not unusual to have out-of-town players in a community band. It shows their dedication and love for music, he said.

“Shelly does drive quite a distance ... for Alysa, the one from S.C., it gives her an outlet and contact with other people that she is familiar with, meaning band people. We are glad to have them,” Saunders said.

— Contact Jamie Parsell at


Text Only
BBQ My Way
Viral Video and Slideshows