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Monday, May 20, 2024

Growing up in Naperville – A few more notes about band life


Over many years, I have witnessed many funny or unusual happenings in band or while teaching band. Every time I’ve related some of these stories, someone has suggested that I write a book. Well, a book is too long, so here goes some things I can tell here.

• As 5th graders marching in the Ellsworth School Band, we were lining up at the corner of School Street and Center, waiting for the bands to come from the Catholic cemetery and the service at the Doughboy in Burlington Square Park. After the Naperville Municipal Band passed, followed by the high school band, the junior high band as well as Naper and Ellsworth school bands followed in the parade to Naperville Cemetery. Along the line of march, our bass drummer seemed to be having trouble keeping the beat. When we arrived the cemetery, we found out what had happened. The bass drummer’s drum stick had broken and he marched the parade beating the drum with his fist. His fist was bleeding, but he never quit!

• My first year in the City Band, we marched in Hinsdale for their 4th of July Parade. The line of march began north of the Burlington tracks on Main Street. As we were beginning to cross the tracks, marching south, the gates started to come down! The drum major and Color Guard kept marching. The band stopped at the gates. Bill Albrecht turned to the band and said, “I wonder when they are going to realize the band is not behind them.”

• One of the things I tried to get my students to understand was that music and practice must continue even when school is out. We always ran a huge summer band program for six weeks.

I used to tell my students, “If you’re in town, I want you here for band. I know you go on vacation and trips in the summer, but if you’re in town, I want you here.”

Well, school started after Labor Day and at my first rehearsal with 7th grade cornets, I commented to a student named Steve that I’d not seen him in summer band. He answered that he’d traveled to the Rocky Mountains, Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore…and he’d practiced every day.

I asked, “Are you sure?” And Steve said he’d taken his cornet with him.

“OK,” I said. “Open the lesson book to page 7 and play the first exercise.”
He picked up his horn and when he blew the first note, a spider crawled out of the bell!

“Yep! You practiced every day!”

• One year a trombone player named Cliff Mecklee was having trouble with the slide on his instrument during NMB rehearsal, so Mr. Koerner told him to give the horn to Bud Koeder who ran an instrument repair shop on School Street. So, Bud took the trombone, fixed it, and brought it back to the NMB Concert that Thursday. During the second or third selection, the trombones came to the front of the stage and on the first note, Cliff threw the slide into the front row of the audience. All the musicians in the band laughed so much we had to start over!

• My last story this month happened during my first job when I was teaching band in Milledgeville. We were getting ready of our Winter Concert. The band room was in the lower level and we had to take the stairs to the gym where we were set to play the concert. Things were moving a little slowly, so I blew a whistle and said for the students to get moving to their seats upstairs.

When Peggy Chaffee started up the stairs, the citation chord on her uniform caught on the railing. The clarinet went up a half flight of stairs and fell all the way to the floor below. It was smashed to pieces, keys and plastic everywhere!

Peggy swept it all together and brought it to me and asked if I could fix it, quick!
I sent the remains to the Leblanc Corporation in Wisconsin. They returned a brand new clarinet, no charge!

Fast forward to Springtime 2023… Don’t forget the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Dedication at 2PM May 27 in Veterans Park, the Memorial Day Parade at 10:30AM May 29 and the Memorial Day Observance in Central Park at noon on May 29. Note also the NMB first summer concert begins at 7:30PM on June 1 with “A Salute to Our Armed Forces,” music written for or by the military. And the band plays on and on!

Conductor and Music Director Ron Keller looks forward to June 1 when the Naperville Municipal Band begins another summer season in Central Park. (PN File Photo)

Here are program notes just in from Steve Lord for the Naperville Municipal Band with other themes and dates of the City band concerts.

June 8, “Familiar Tunes”

June 15, “Looking Upward”

June 29.“A Patriotic Concert,” which is the annual Fourth of July celebration. 

July 6, “Let’s Dance”

July 13, “Ron and Chris Paryl Night,” dedicated to a couple that has been in the band for 50 years

July 20, “A Salute to Illinois”

July 27, “Rovena Hungness Night,” a dedication to another 50-year member of the band

Aug. 10, “Prelude to Fall”

On June 22, the Naperville Big Band will perform, and on Aug. 3, the Naperville Big Band will perform with another area guest big band.

The Naperville Municipal Band has been entertaining Naperville and the surrounding suburbs in Central Park for more than 150 years. The band has grown from a group of dedicated musicians whose vision brought them together in 1859 to its current 100-member roster. 

Over the years the award-winning band has undergone five name changes and raised money for four different band shells, 12 sets of uniforms, park benches, music and guest performers.

Strike up the Naperville Municipal Band!

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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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