By Jenn Watt
Published Feb. 28 2017
Bill Medland brought the happy beat of the marching band to the streets of Haliburton when he founded the Silver Flutes back in 1994. With a few fellow music lovers and a drive to create something truly special the group was created and entertained not only parade-goers throughout the Highlands but around the province as well.
With Medland at the helm dozens of budding musicians took up their flutes piccolos and drums. They learned to march together how to read music and how to rely on one another.
Those brought into the fold of the Silver Flutes under Medland are remembering their bandmaster following news of his death Jan. 28.
“Bill Medland believed in contributing to his community” former band member Reuben Maughan told the Echo.
When he moved to Eagle Lake from Toronto following retirement at first he kept up with his hometown band the Derry Flute Band. But he soon shifted his focus.
As Medland told the Echo during an interview in 2008 the Silver Flutes was formed to fill an obvious void he found in his new community.
He was watching the Santa Claus Parade in Haliburton with a friend who pointed out how few bands there were.
“He said it was too cold for them” Medland told the Echo at the time. “I said I think you’re wrong.”
At first the group was small just a few members of Charlene English’s family and Bill and his wife Donna.
“We just started practising and I said you’ve got something here” English recalls. “So we started recruiting.”
English’s son Jonathan nine years old at the time was too small to play the drums so Medland taught him how to play the piccolo. English played flute.
As time went on and English had more children they also joined the band; Sarah would take care of running the sheet music cards to band members and David would play the triangle.
Medland went into the local schools to stir up interest amongst youth.
“He would offer them [the children] a flute to use if they would learn” English says.
Those who joined in the Haliburton Highlands Silver Flutes had no expenses.
“Bill believed that everyone should be able to make music and went to great lengths to ensure that there was no cost to band members” Maughan explains.
Uniforms instruments and other fees were never the worry of those in the band – money made from performing at events and parades went into the band’s general coffers.
Those who played in the band remember Medland as a kind funny person who seemed to generate entertaining anecdotes as a matter of course.
Nick Chumbley joined the Silver Flutes when he was in middle school in 1999 and is now bandmaster a role he took over from Maughan a few years back. He said he stuck with it because of his love of music but also because the band was a community unto itself.
“You were family. You were part of the band for life” Chumbley told the paper. Band members would go paintballing together or curling. There were no cliques. And Medland looked out for everyone.
“I’ll never forget the day that I unintentionally had Bill in tears when I told him I thought of Bill and Donna as grandparents. I still do” Chumbley told the audience at Medland’s funeral.
He describes Medland as a cactus; gruff on the outside but warm and loving on the inside.
“Once you got to know the man you knew he was a soft-hearted man. Very warm and very caring and he liked to see you succeed” he said.
Several years ago when Medland announced his retirement from the band a former band member Kathy Whyte contacted the paper with an essay on what Medland meant to her.
She wrote that the band had provided its members with a deeply meaningful experience they carry throughout life.
“You see” she wrote “the band gives everyone in it a sense of belonging as well as teaching responsibility respect for yourself and others pride and a true sense of camaraderie.”
She recalled a time when the band travelled to Scarborough and stayed overnight before performing at the Toronto Santa Claus Parade.
“When Bill went out to our bus the morning of the Toronto parade he discovered that our drums had all been stolen right off the bus! He called Donna who made a few calls of her own and just before our bus was due to depart for downtown Toronto Donna arrived with a full set of drums” Whyte wrote.
English has other stories of Medland going “above and beyond” for the band.
“One young girl had injured her fingers and was missing the tips of her fingers” English says. “So he modified a flute using cork so that her fingers could still fit on the keys and she could march. That’s the kind of stuff he did” she says.
Maughan who is now a music teacher says he sometimes finds himself repeating Medland’s idioms.
“I occasionally will use a ‘Bill-ism’ with my students – such as ‘Hurray-boo’ Bill’s personal version of good news-bad news or ‘story time’ in which a life lesson would be conveyed via anecdote” he says.
Medland’s death notice details his lifelong commitment to marching bands. Starting at age four he was making music in the streets with the Twelfth Parade and his father Syd. He went on to play with the Dian Juvenile Flute Band Tobermore Flute Band and then the Derry Flute Band. He received the Governor General’s Award for Caring Canadians in recognition of his work with the Silver Flutes.
Medland died at age 85 with family and friends by his side.