I am sad to mark the passing of an outstanding person and musician, Dave Downing. Dave was a member of the National Capital Band for 45 years, and I was privileged to serve along with him (sometimes in the adjacent chair) for 32 of those years. He was also a great personal friend, which is why this post is not written in the Brass Crest’s usual third-person style.
Dave and his wife, Karen, came to the Washington, DC, area in 1969, just after Dave had finished a tour with the US Army in Vietnam. Both coming from a Salvation Army background, they began attending the Prince George's Corps (and later the Alexandria Citadel Corps), and both joined the National Capital Band. Through the years, Dave played baritone, euphonium, and principal horn, as well as serving several terms as the band sergeant and chaplain. At the corps, Dave served in several leadership positions, including bandmaster, corps sergeant-major, Sunday school teacher, and youth band leader.
In 1979, Dave was struck with a massive heart attack at the age of 34. Despite having severe damage to his heart muscle, requiring him to have a defibrillator implanted in his body, and eventually to have a heart transplant, he remained a vital member of the corps and the NCB. Throughout his medical difficulties, he retained a strong Christian witness and a sense of dignity and honor. A few years after having his transplant, he was diagnosed with cancer. The surgery for this new affliction caused his face to be partially paralyzed, and even though he was unable to play a brass instrument for several years, he remained the NCB band sergeant, faithfully coming to rehearsals and engagements.
In 1992, Dave and Karen adopted an infant from Bolivia, Kevin. They nurtured him into an intelligent, gracious person, who is incidentally also extremely talented, being a virtuoso trombonist. As with everything he did, Dave took a very active role with his son, helping to develop his intellectual, spiritual, and musical abilities.
Personally, Dave was a good friend of my family. He and Karen are the godparents of my older daughter, Elizabeth. When I first joined the NCB baritone section in 1976, Dave was the principal, and much of my sound and approach to the instrument over the years is an emulation of his style. His family and spiritual life was also a role model for my wife and myself.
In email to members and friends of the National Capital Band, Bandmaster Dr. Steve Kellner called Dave "one of our Mount Rushmore figures, both musically and spiritually." His presence will be sorely missed, but his influence on the Salvationists of the National Capital Area and elsewhere will continue through those of us who were privileged to know him.
~ Robert D. Schramm