October 17, 2019

EPHS Band Wants Your Old Uniform!

Townie Band Director Martinez-Silva Wants to Display Memorabilia in New School

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The East Providence High School Band and its Director Marisa Martinez Silva are planning ahead for their band room when the new East Providence High School opens. "We want to try and find older versions of Townie Band uniforms to put in shadow boxes to display in the band room of the new school," said Martinez-Silva. "Maybe someone has stashed away an old uniform and has something hiding in a basement or attic. I thought it would be cool to have all the different band uniforms hanging in the new school," said the current band director.

East Providence has had award winning bands ever since the early 1900's. Dr. Stephen Farnum, a legend in the history of the East Providence High School Music Department and throughout the country, came to East Providence High School in 1934. The band had 20 students with uniforms donated by the American Legion. Soon the band grew to over 60 members with new uniforms. In May of 1941, the EPHS band performed before an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd of 50,000 people in the National Music Festival in Atlantic City, and marched off with First Place honors. Townie bands have been winning acclaim ever since.

In May, 1997, the RI Legislature passed a resolution honoring Dr. Farnum for his many achievements. The resolution introduced by Reps. Elizabeth Dennigan and Henry Rose said, in part: "After Dr. Farnum earned his Doctorate in Statistics from Harvard University, he developed two tests which are used in high schools throughout the country. The Watkins-Farnum sight reading test is utilized by almost all junior high and high school bands, colleges, and bands in the various branches of the service. It is the most widely used test of its kind in the nation. The second test, which is still used at East Providence High School, tests seventh graders as they start in the band system."

The resolution further stated: "Dr. Farnum was twice invited to bring his music to the prestigious Music Education National Conference in Atlantic City, where only the very top groups are invited to perform as a model of superior high school bands. EPHS enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for having one of the very finest programs in the New England region of the country."

The resolution added that: "A strict, caring and demanding teacher, Dr. Farnum is also remembered for bringing music into the lives of youngsters who could not afford instruments. Making school instruments available that could be rented, he taught students from all backgrounds to appreciate good music and concerts; and perhaps the finest tribute that can be paid to Dr. Farnum is the fact that so many of his past students have brought their children and grandchildren to visit him. They clearly value the gift he gave to them so long ago."

Farnum retired from EPHS in 1969 after 34 years as the supervisor of music for the secondary schools in East Providence. He is a Townie Hall of Famer.

The rest is history as EPHS has had a succession of award winning band directors like John Pavao, Jack McNamara, Gaston Malloy, Rick Vars and now Marisa Martinez Silva, to name some of the best.

Following in those footsteps is Martinez-Silva who is asking for the community's help in rounding up old band uniforms and artifacts that can be displayed proudly in the new high school. So check your attics, basements and your parents or grandparents old chests. You can contact Director Martinez-Silva at the high school if you find anything you can loan to this effort.

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