The Eagles Band was founded in 1936 and is the oldest continuing performance ensemble in the Berkshires. The band was originally sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie #358, but traces its roots to the 390th Field Artillery Band (1918). The 390th disbanded in the late 1920’s (there was no longer a need for a Field Artillery in the Berkshires…)and many of its members formed the Pittsfield American Legion Band, which begat a “renegade” group that started rehearsing at the Eagles hall in 1936.
The FOE sponsorship ended when the Pittsfield Aerie folded in 1982. For 10 years, the band rehearsed without an official sponsor, moving from rehearsal space to rehearsal space and seeking co-sponsors for Music Performance Trust Fund money, as the band was a Musicians’ Union organization. Funding the band, attracting new members, and finding rehearsal and storage space became increasingly difficult with each passing year.
The early activities of the band included performing at Williams College (which the Legion group did in 1935 and which the Eagles took over in 1936, though not under the Eagles name until 1939), many state FOE band and parade competitions (in which our band took several “first prizes”), and concerts in all kinds of parks and events throughout the Berkshires.
Only during the summer seasons, though. Up until 1993, we were a “summers only” band. Also, many of our band’s musicians played send-offs and welcomes for our WWII soldiers at Union Station. When the end of the war seemed imminent, our musicians would bring their axes to work with them, waiting for the official announcement. When Victory (E & J) came, our guys played and partied in the streets with the rest of the city.
In 1993, the Eagles Band reorganized and made a decision to become a non-profit community band, in which performers donated their time for the love of playing, and which opened up new possibilities for funding the band. Mayor Reilly proclaimed the Eagles Band “the official band of the City of Pittsfield,” the band fundraised for new uniforms, new music and equipment such as music stands and percussion. The summer “Concerts in the Park” series was resurrected and has been taking place at Springside Park since 1994. Conductors Lyndon Moors, Dana Swanson and Neil Freebern provided musical direction which increased the band’s popularity with audiences and increased the membership from 12 musicians to over 50.
Carl Jenkins, Principal Conductor
Eagles Band Principal Conductor
Carl Jenkins, conductor and oboist, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Montclair State University in New Jersey and a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University. He has studied with oboists of the New Jersey Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, and Humbert Lucarelli of New York City; and conducting with Malcolm Rowell of U. Mass and Larry Rachleff of Rice University. Mr. Jenkins was a member of the West Point Band. His orchestral experience has been with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, the Albany Symphony and he continues to perform as principal oboist with the Berkshire Symphony (a position he has held since 1973). He performs chamber and solo recitals frequently in the area. He is the Artist Associate of Oboe at Williams College. He was the founding conductor of the Williams College Symphonic Winds, directing the ensemble for nine years.
He recently retired after serving as Director of Music and instrumental instructor at Drury High School. He was the conductor of the Drury High School Bands from 1976 – 2009. Mr. Jenkins was the recipient of the 2002 Lowell Mason Music Award and was the 2004 recipient of the “Distinguished Service Award for Music” in the state of Massachusetts. In 2009 he received the Western District Music Educator Award. He has served as double reed adjudicator for many music festivals throughout New England and recently was guest conductor at the Cohoes Music Festival.
Mr. Jenkins became the Principal Conductor of the Eagles Band, a community band, located in Pittsfield, MA, at the center of Berkshire County in 2014. Under his expert direction, the Eagles Band continues to grow in size and quality.
Eagles Big Band Conductor
Dr. Stephen Sanborn is a stage and musical director. He has directed for production companies up and down the Hudson Valley including his own company, “The Two of Us Productions” which he shares with his wife Constance Lopez. He has conducted many pit orchestras and has been a guest conductor for the Eagles Concert Band.
He has performed with many dance band and jazz band groups in the area including the Berkshire Big Band, the Mike Benedict Big Band, the Jazz Cartel and The Luce Brothers Blues Band and several community bands including the Eagles Band. He has also performed in the pit for numerous musical theater productions including Barrington Stage, NY Conservatory for the Arts, Tri-Ats Productions and Berkshire Lyric Theater.
Steve took over as the leader of the Eagles Big Band following the death of the long-time Big Band leader, Richard “Dick” Carmel.
Mr. Sanborn has an undergraduate degree in Engineering where he also received a music scholarship. His graduate work and Ph. D. are also in Engineering. He works for GE Research in Schenectady, NY.