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Monday, January 30, 2023

Growing up in Naperville – A funny thing happened on the way to band practice!

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Over the years of hearing stories from my dad about all the crazy things that happened to the Naperville Municipal Band (NMB), I began thinking about some of many things that have happened then and now.

In 1950, the NMB was invited to Mardi Gras Days at Riverview Park in Chicago. The event featured a marching band contest for area community bands. Well, the story goes that Mr. Elmer Koerner, the band’s leader at the time, had the band lined up, ready to march, and announced to the band members that just before going by the judges reviewing stand, the band would stop, and no matter what march they were playing, everyone would flip back to #1 in the book.

Well, the front of the band heard him, but the back of the band didn’t. When the band stopped, the front flipped back to #1 and the back half flipped forward to #3. The band marched past the judges reviewing stand playing two different marches at the same time. And they took 2nd Place!

Other strange things happened like the time Bob Blackard forgot his shoes and marched in his black socks. Another time Harold Schrader forgot his mouthpiece and couldn’t play, so he just carried his instrument in the parade! On Memorial Day 1949, Dick Wyler broke three drum heads in one parade!

Stories continued after I began teaching. On one occasion, I was demonstrating band instruments to third graders. After playing the trombone, I asked if there were any questions.

One little boy asked if it hurt when I swallowed the slide on the trombone!

On another occasion, a 7th grade cornet player said he’d practiced every day during the summer. I opened the lesson book and said, “Play me the first line.”

He blew the first note and a spider crawled out of the bell.

The best one, however, was a tuba player at Naper School. He blew his first note and it sounded like a squeezed Pinched Blat. I said, “You’re not practicing.”

Still, he vowed that he’d been practicing. I asked him to blow again and he made the same sound.

Then I picked up my mouthpiece and took the horn from him. “Blow like this,” I said. And when I blew the horn made the same sound as his!

And he said, “You’re not practicing, either!”

Well, I found the cause for the strange sound was created by a wasp nest way down in the curve of the tuba! Once it was removed, the tone improved greatly.

I also remember the time the Naperville Municipal Band was marching in the Fourth of July Parade in Hinsdale. Right after the Color Guard crossed the railroad tracks, the gates came down and the band was stranded on the north side of the tracks. The Color Guard kept marching. They marched about a block before they realized the band was not behind them!

Ron Keller
Ron Keller
Ron Keller is a lifelong Naperville resident, tuba enthusiast and has been conducting the Naperville Municipal Band for over 50 years.

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