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Monday, January 30, 2023

Growing up in Naperville – Music in my life

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I read an interesting article recently about how music played an important role in helping two elders in a nursing home find each other. They were listening to a waltz on the radio and began dancing with each other!

Music is around us all the time—it’s on the radio, television, movies and commercials. Music can soothe you and make you happy or sad. I’ve heard music in grocery stores, on elevators and just about everywhere I go.

American March King John Philip Sousa said that a good march could make a man with a wooden leg get up and march! I gave a talk at the Naperville Woman’s Club many years ago about music in my life and how I got involved in the first place.

I grew up with it. My mom used to do housework listening to the FM radio when it was all classical music. My dad liked the polka bands and, as he called them, “the sweet bands,” that included Sammy Kaye, Guy Lombardo, Glenn Miller and Jan Garber. Many of these bands broadcast live on the radio from dance halls in Chicago.

My great grandfather, Joseph Bapst, played cornet and led the Naperville Band I the 1870s and ‘80s. My great uncle, George Keller, played trumpet in the Naperville Band as did my dad and mother.

My mom could play cornet, baritone and alto horn. She also was especially gifted on marimba. My great aunt, Margarete Bapst, taught piano in town and had a degree in music from Chicago Musical College. So I really didn’t have a choice when it came to music and a career. For me, it was music!

I took piano lessons, started tuba in third grade, was in choir and played string bass in the orchestra.

My love was marches and band music.

In 1948, the Cities Service Band of America went on radio and played a half hour live band concert every Monday night at 8:30 on NBC. Conductor Paul Lavalle led the band made up of the best musicians in the New York City area.

In 1949, I asked my dad to get a television set. He said, “We don’t need one.”

Well, at the end of the 1949 season, the Cities Service Band announced that beginning in September, they were going to appear on television every Monday night.

My dad bought a TV the next week!

Paul Lavalle was my hero as I grew up. His band was on TV until 1956. Fifteen years ago, I was in Chicago for a band convention and my friend Harvey Phillips (a member of the Cities Service Band!) told me that Lavelle was at the hotel and wondered if I’d like to meet him.

Wow! You bet! And I got to spend about two hours with one of my heroes!

Music has been a great and wonderful part of my life—and it still is.

I’m pleased to report the Naperville Municipal Band will play its Fall Concert at 3PM Sun., Nov. 14, on stage at Wentz Concert Hall. We’ll be remembering our Veterans, John Philip Sousa and the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. I hope to see you there!

Editor’s Note / Many memorable marches, show tunes and seasonal classics will welcome the audience’s listening enjoyment during the Fall Concert. “A Jubilant Overture,” “Victory at Sea,” “Autumn Leaves,” “Jersey Boys,” “America” (from Westside Story) and, of course, “The Armed Forces Medley” as a tribute to all honorable men and women of military service, will be performed.

All Naperville Municipal Band concerts are free of charge. Most concerts are about 90 minutes.

Save the date for the annual holiday concert set to take the stage at 3PM Sun., Dec. 19, 2021, also at Wentz Concert Hall at the Fine Arts Center on the campus of North Central College.

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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