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Friday, September 29, 2023

Growing up in Naperville – Leaders of the band


This year marks my 56th year as director of the Naperville Municipal Band—and I can remember my first concert as though it were yesterday.

We were opening the new concrete band shell in Central Park that was named the Elmer Koerner Band Shell. It was dedicated on June 25, 1966. For many years, a new band shell had been the dream of Mr. Koerner as a home for the band. Back then, the band was about 50 members with six to eight high school students also playing with the band.

When the band began to improve and gain new members as Naperville grew, we wanted to do something special for the 1975-76 season for the Bicentennial of the United States. I had played several concerts with Merle Evans who had been director of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus Band for 50 years. My suggestion at the time was to see if we could get Merle to come to Naperville and lead a “circus concert” of music performed for circus acts.

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I contacted Merle and asked if he’d consider coming to Naperville. He responded, “I think I could do that!”

I told him about my upcoming trip to Sarasota with plans to go to Disney World over the Christmas/New Year time off from school.

I called him when I arrived in Sarasota and he invited me over so we could finalize plans.
Merle’s first question to me was, “Does your bass drummer watch?”

I said, “Yes.”

Then he asked how many tubas.

I said, “Five. But I’m going to play, also.”

Merle replied, “OK. I’ll come.”

That performance turned out to be a fantastic night of circus music in Central Park.

Five years ago, the Naperville Municipal Band was invited to perform at the Texas Bandmasters Convention in San Antonio. What an honor for the Naperville Municipal Band!

The City of Naperville helped with some of the costs involved and off to San Antonio we went.

We played two concerts and received a standing ovation for each one! That trip provided some great memories for all our members.

This 2022 season has been quite a year for the NMB! I commend all our musicians for their dedication and making it happen for an outstanding season in Central Park. Thanks also for the continued support of our audiences and the City of Naperville.

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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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