On March 6, the Delta Symphonic and special guest Exeter High School bands dedicated a concert titled “Onward” to the late Dr. Eric Hammer, who died on 28 Jan. at age 67.
Hammer was the director of bands at University of the Pacific for 26 years. He taught public school for almost two decades and acquired much experience with community ensembles over the course of his career.
The final piece of the concert, “Onward,” written by Gary P. Gilroy, received its name as a dedication to Hammer’s “often used salutation,” according to MJ Wamhoff, Delta professor and band director.
Delta musicians who worked with Hammer spoke highly of him and shared how the term was significant to them in their own ways. Many students remarked that pushing forward and staying passionate through college are the essence of “onward.”
“Just working him was really awesome because it really solidified the fact that I wanna be a professional musician,” said Kelly Bacon, Delta’s Symphonic Band flute soloist. She was in the San Joaquin Honor Band when it was directed by Hammer.
Amy Framer, trumpet player, also credits Hammer with encouraging her to pursue music.
“Dr. Hammer was the very first musician to ever tell me I was decent. I was in high school, and he came and listened to our band play. He read behind me, he read my music and when I got done playing he said, ‘You know you’re pretty good.’ And he was like the first person to ever tell me I was good,” she said.
Since the start of the semester the band had practiced for this concert. “Onward” was a last-minute addition following Hammer’s passing, according to Jeremy De La Cerda, bass trombone player.
Other songs featured were “Footsteps,” by Dana Wilson, and a four movement piece titled “Elements,” by Brian Balmages. Delta’s student performers seemed largely interested in “Footsteps” because of its sense of originality compared to the other classical sounding pieces.
“That one’s different from the rest. It kind of sounds like a snake charmer almost. It has that vibe to it, whereas everything else is kind of like upbeat and fun. That one’s just more unique, I guess,” said Bacon.