Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book Review: The Band Plays On by Rick D. Niece

Several months ago, I read and reviewed Side-Yard Superhero, the first book in the Fanfare for a Hometown series by Rick D. Niece, Ph.D. If you remember that review, you know that I loved the chapter-by-chapter peek into DeGraff, Ohio--Dr. Niece’s small-town, boyhood community. Side-Yard Superhero was one of those books that transported me to another place and time—yet made me feel comfortable and at home. I enjoyed reading about the characters and places of Niece’s hometown so much, that I readily accepted the opportunity to review The Band Plays On, the second book in the Fanfare for a Hometown series. What was my review of The Band Plays On?

About the Book

Celebrating the soul of America’s heartland, The Band Plays On is Rick Niece’s heartfelt tribute to friendship, community, and, most importantly, his father, Lewis Niece. When DeGraff, Ohio’s beloved band director is invited to conduct an encore performance, “Lewie’s Alumni Band” gathers to celebrate with gusto. As the band practices for its final parade, Rick, his baritone in tow, reflects on treasured memories, relationships, and the legacy of a small town with indomitable spirit. The second volume in the delightful Fanfare for a Hometown series, The Band Plays On provides an entertaining, inspirational glimpse into lives richly lived…and shared. 

I received a complimentary ebook copy of this book for use in my review. All opinions are my own. 
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My Review

The Band Plays On takes readers down another lovely memory lane. The Band Plays On: Going Home for a Music Man’s Encore returns readers to Central Ohio’s DeGraff for a special music alumni reunion honoring Rick Niece’s father—the retired band director from the local DeGraff school district. The reunion opens the door to a new volume of characters and memories from Niece’s past in 1950’s era DeGraff, Ohio—a small, rural area in the West/Central part of the state. Niece returned to DeGraff and its residents—and he refurbished his old baritone and marching band chops as his thoughts drifted back to places past. Niece’s fond memories of the family and personal values of small town America reflect strongly in his words and the poetry dotting the book’s chapters.

The Band Plays On is another terrific automythography. As with Side Yard Superhero, The Band Plays On is an “automythography”, Niece’s term which he defines as “a work of nonfiction that looks reflectively at what we think we remember and how we think we remember it; an iridescent memory based upon truth and fact.” Having grown up in a small town, much like DeGraff, Niece’s books take me home. I was not a small town fan as a girl—and still prefer the convenience and atmosphere of the city to the rural communities “back home”. Today I am able to reflect fondly on the many friends and neighbors that helped form the person I am today—and I am sure that my memories combine a lot of “how I remember things” with the factual places and faces. It is gratifying to look back and smile with Rick Niece in his Fanfare for a Hometown series at his hometown—and reflect on my own.

The Band Plays On is an easy, enjoyable read—that you will not want to end. I am a mother of three—with a long to-do list and a short attention span. I love short stories and books that offer stand-alone style chapters and little segments. The Band Plays On is perfect for me as the reader explores the various areas of DeGraff, meeting its residents in small memorable bursts. While some of the characters—and places—were introduced in the first book of the three-book series—The Band Plays On could certainly be read and understood alone. Reading The Band Plays On made me want to reread SideYard Superhero as I learned a few more details about characters introduced in the first volume of the series!  It also drew my anticipation for the third book!

A book with a purpose--and a cause. The Band Plays On was an easily flowing narrative that paid tribute to small town influences--and the various educators, formal and informal, that formed the community. Music education figured strongly into Rick Niece's family life and upbringing.  In appreciation of the rewards of music education, he pledged a dollar donation from every copy of The Band Plays On sold through July 16th, 2012, for the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation 
Would I recommend The Band Plays On by Rick D. Niece, Ph.D? I would greatly encourage you to read this book (even if you did not play a musical instrument or grow up in a small town). I look forward to the final book in the Fanfare for a Hometown series—and to future works from Dr. Niece.

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