Tacoma Community College Symphonic Band: Music from the Heart in the Heart of Tacoma

Tacoma Community College Symphonic Band
Young and seasoned musicians come together to perform unique pieces for the TCC Symphonic Band in Tacoma.


By Sonia Garza

Tacoma Community College Symphonic Band
Dr. John Falskow leads the Tacoma Community College Symphonic Band during rehearsal at the main TCC campus.

Tacoma is a melting pot of culture, offering art in the most unusual places. When looking for a local and interesting spot to hear natural talent, it is easy to bypass and overlook community colleges. But, the Tacoma Community College Symphonic Band offers just that — performances from talented musicians both young and old as well as an entertaining experience, free of charge.

It’s 7:00 p.m. on a Thursday night and the quiet stage at the Tacoma Community College (TCC) campus transforms as musicians trickle in. Some are current students while others have played their instrument for well over 50 years. This is where they all come together with one goal in mind — to make music together.

Shiny instruments are prepped and tuned and the hall is filled with a myriad of sounds and trills. All become attentive as conductor Dr. John Falskow takes the stage. The musicians watch each sway of Dr. Falskow’s arms and listen to each other attentively to create a beautiful tapestry of music. It is apparent that this is more than just playing notes on a page, and as a flutist who’s had a love affair with music all my life, I can relate that the magic is in what is created on stage, amongst the players, beyond the page.

TCC Symphonic Band
Joel Wallgren warms up his clarinet during rehearsal in preparation for the upcoming May performance.

Dr. Falskow began his music career with the trumpet in 5th grade. After returning to his home in Tacoma after attending Washington State University, Dr. Falskow went on to teach at both Florida State University and the University of South Carolina. He has been the Chair of Music at TCC since 2005 and conducts the TCC Orchestra, Symphonic Band and PugetBrass — a Seattle-based brass band.

“The most rewarding thing for me is to get enthusiastic musicians of all ages together and to share experiences in music,” says Dr. Falskow. “For me, the rewards are in the moments we share, making music together and for each other.”

Joel Wallgren, a member of the band, has played the clarinet for 20 years and has been a member of the TCC Symphonic Band for eight years. After Wallgren returned home from Northwestern University in Chicago, he wanted to keep playing and was glad to find the community ensemble. “I enjoy having the ability to collaborate with other musicians and work toward the same goal. We don’t use words. We communicate through music and it’s exciting!”

Another performer, Charles Williams, has played the tenor saxophone for more than 40 years and, like Wallgren, joined the TCC Symphonic Band eight years ago. “When I retired from teaching I wanted to continue playing my instrument and TCC’s Symphonic Band was that outlet,” explains Williams. “The most enjoyable thing for me is to hear how we progress from rehearsal to the finished product in the concerts.”

As a TCC student briefly in 1989, Lisa Cepeda has played percussion for 20 years and has been playing with the TCC Symphonic Band for six years. “John Falskow came to a Tacoma Concert Band rehearsal to substitute for the conductor one evening and I was told he was the conductor for Tacoma Community College,” explains Cepeda. “I was very impressed with his conducting skills and his interpretation of music in that rehearsal and asked if I could join his percussion section.” Cepeda has since been performing with various groups. “John has introduced me to many different styles and forms of music that I had not been exposed to in the past. It is often times challenging music, and I have found that I have experienced tremendous musical growth due to his conducting.”

Tacoma Community College Symphonic Band
Terry Nelson, retired Air Force, has played the trumpet in the TCC Symphonic Band since 2002.

The TCC Symphonic Band performs three concerts at the end of each TCC academic quarter. The next free performance is Friday, May 29 at 7:30 p.m. in TCC’s auditorium (Building 2), near the intersection of South 12 Street and Mildred. It’s is a comfortable, 300-seat auditorium, and serves the band’s rehearsal and performance needs. Donations are welcome.

You will not be disappointed as the repertoire spans a variety of music from classic marches to very contemporary works. Dr. Falskow mixes up the musical styles to show audiences how innovative, creative and expressive a wind band can sound. “I try to give brief, non-technical explanations of our selections. I do not print program notes, so I try to give short introductions of the works at our concerts. I find that a little information can help listeners find more meaning in the experience.”

The performances often include special guest soloists as well as local musicians. To see the band in action, attend their concert rehearsals on Thursdays from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. or enjoy a live streaming of a current performance or an archived recording of a previous performance.

For more information about the TCC Symphonic Band, contact Dr. John Falskow at 253-460-4374 or jfalskow@tacomacc.edu.


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