Following the end of the polka Friday evening — a longstanding Greenport Band tradition where concertgoers in Mitchell Park drop donations in a beer barrel during the song — director Colin Van Tuyl was about to speak into the microphone to introduce the second half of the evening when he got cut off.
Fellow band member Ann Van Cleef grabbed the microphone and began to speak about Mr. Van Tuyl.
“Larry Sutter was looking through some old programs last weekend and realized that this year marks your 25th year as the conductor of the Greenport Band,” she began.
Ms. Van Cleef, who has been a member of the band since 1996, continued to praise Mr. Van Tuyl, crediting his kindness, organizational skills and sense of humor for elevating the band to the next level during his time in charge.
“In 2002 you were named Man of the Year by both The Suffolk Times and by Congregation Tifereth Israel,” she concluded. “But, Colin, for the past 25 years you have been our Man of the Year each and every year.”
A trumpet player, Mr. Van Tuyl joined the band, which his father and brother also played in, at 13 years old in 1964. A version of the band was formed in 1851 and it has played outdoor summer concerts in the village since 1946. In recemt years, the event has been held in Mitchell Park.
The band never rehearses before performances and people can participate as little or as frequently as they please. Ages of current band members range from middle school to 92 years old.
“The thing that impresses me the most is that these musicians — a lot are professionals, like teachers and performers — travel great distances to be out here on a Friday night,” Mr. Van Tuyl said. “It’s very gratifying that they make the effort to come out. It’s certainly fun to play the music and know that most of them can play whatever I pick to play.”
He took over the role of conductor in 1993 after Frank Corwin retired. Since then Mr. Van Tuyl has purchased new songs for the band, set up for every concert and assembled folders each week with that night’s songs.
Longtime band members say his efforts have not gone unnoticed.
“Colin is raising the level of the band,” Ann Mendocha said. “He does an excellent job. He takes it seriously, which is why people take it seriously.”
Clarinet player Harold Nelson, who’s been in the band for 63 years, said Mr. Van Tuyl works the hardest and is a “pretty terrific guy.”
Mr. Van Tuyl received a card signed by the band members and gift cards for Amazon and Elbow East to commemorate the milestone. Band member Dan Creedon also handed out buttons to other band members celebrating Mr. Van Tuyl’s anniversary.
“It was a complete surprise,” he said. “I had no idea they were going to do that … I was just ready to start the second half of the concert and Ann took me by surprise. The card that the band all signed and the gift cards, it was beyond belief. It was very generous.”
Photo caption: Colin Van Tuyl receives a standing ovation at Friday’s Greenport Band concert, during which he was honored for 25 years as the group’s conductor. (Nicole Smith photo)