Band director passes the baton

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Charley Marenghi, longtime director of the Naugatuck Community Band, gives his last performance as director and conductor Tuesday night on the Town Green in Naugatuck. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Charley Marenghi, longtime director of the Naugatuck Community Band, gives his last performance as director and conductor Tuesday night on the Town Green in Naugatuck. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — In the summer of 1999, Charley Marenghi and a friend decided to revive the Naugatuck Community Band, which had been defunct for about 18 years.

Under the direction of former Director Scott Friend, a group of 15 local band members played concerts on the Town Green in the summers of 1999 and 2000.

Later in 2000, Marenghi took over as director and led a Christmas concert in the Post 17 American Legion Hall on Water Street.

On Tuesday night, he was in that same hall being honored for not only breathing new life into a cherished community band, but for his tireless dedication to the band over these past 15 years. Marenghi directed his last concert on the Green Tuesday night — a summer musical festival featuring patriotic and popular music. The band members surprised him with a celebration at the Legion Hall following the show.

“He has such a passion for everything he does,” said Christine Warren, a band member and the group’s treasurer. “It’s incredible. He knows what direction he wants to take us in, and he gets everybody to play better. He has a drive and enthusiasm that is just amazing.”

The band played for several years before becoming defunct in either 1971 or 1972, Marenghi said. At the time, the band had put money into an account to give scholarships to Naugatuck students. In 1986, Marenghi received the final scholarship that organization gave out. Thirteen years later, he and late friend, Tyler Smith, decided to revive the organization.

The membership had grown to 45 at one point — it was so large that the band had to play in front of the gazebo on the Green because not everyone could fit on the gazebo stage.

Marenghi, 47, a teacher at Cross Street Intermediate School, is married and has four children; he is also actively involved in youth sports and is chairman of the Howard Whittemore Memorial Library Board of Directors. He said he’s stepping down as band director because he wants to spend more time at home with his family. Still, he plans to remain involved as a musician.

“Many of these people hadn’t picked up an instrument since they were in school,” he said. “It’s a way for people to continue doing what they love in an adult environment.”

The band performs as often as it can, and usually gives five full performances each year in Naugatuck and Seymour. It is always open to new members, similar to the Naugatuck Community Choir.

“We don’t audition people, we always tell them to come audition us,” he said. “We put the music in front of you. If you feel comfortable with the music and feel comfortable with us, you are in.”

The organization now has a new director, Joel Kencht, who was hired after an extensive interview process. Kencht, who is a music teacher at Kennedy High School in Waterbury, is a member of the Connecticut Music Educators Association.

“He is going to be a big plus to this band,” Marenghi said. “He’s the guy who can take the band to the next level musically because that is his full-time life. He’s a great fit.”