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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Thursday night concerts encompass sense of community in Central Park

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Above / At 7:30PM Thurs., June 30, 2016, the Naperville Municipal Band will perform its fourth concert of the season with a tribute to Independence Day, complete with the 1812 Overture and live cannons.

On June 9, the sun was just starting to disappear as I weaved through lawn chairs and picnic blankets.

It was opening night for the Naperville Municipal Band’s “Concerts in Central Park” – a series of summer concerts held in the heart of Downtown Naperville.

The series’ kickoff concert, appropriately titled “Curtain Up,” had drawn a vast crowd despite the day’s unrelenting rain. I found myself a comfy spot under a tree with a sweeping view of the stage and the grounds.

The Naperville Art League was selling baked goods out of the gazebo and families were exchanging laughs over homemade potato salad. I watched as a woman served free ice cream to war veterans donning medals and berets.

NMB Concert Summer 12016060967-145
During “Curtain Up,” Conductor Ron Keller, now in his 51st year as leader of the Naperville Municipal Band, welcomed the community to the summer concert series in Central Park.

As a teen, the word “community” does not mean much. Naperville has always been the place I have to live in until I graduate high school. But as Conductor Ron Keller raised his baton, he inadvertently hushed the crowd and my teenage cynicism. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be a colossal understatement.

I swayed to the band’s renditions of Frank Sinatra classics and grew giddy when I recognized the familiar chords to John Williams’ Star Wars theme.

A little boy seated a few rows in front of me danced in his father’s lap, my mind rewinding back to when I was that small. But by far the most impressive measure of the night was the all encompassing sense of community. The warm encounters with people you have never met and the random acts of kindness, whether it be sharing a blanket or a simple ‘how are you?’, is enough to tear down any pessimist’s wall, even a seventeen year old girl who never gave her hometown the time of day. In one night, Naperville went from a curse to a blessing.

I no longer await my liberation from it but dread it. If one thing is for certain, I will be soaking up as much community as possible starting with Thursday nights in Central Park.

A Naperville native, Caitlyn Van DeVelde is a senior at Neuqua Valley High School. For July, Dr. Music lent his space to Caitlyn. Stay tuned for more of Caitlyn’s contributions to PN this next year. Cheers!

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Caitlyn Vandevelde
Caitlyn Vandevelde
Caitlyn Vandevelde is a senior at Neuqua Valley High School.
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