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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Folks tell Ron Keller his memories of growing up in Naperville could fill a book


Above / A colorful mural titled “The Great Concerto” by Barton Gunderson depicts images of Naperville Municipal Band leaders Elmer Koerner and Ron Keller as well as representatives of the City bands since 1859. See the full mural on the stage door in Central Park. (PN Photo)
NMB Director Elmer Koerner played the cornet. (The First 150 Years Photo)

I’ll begin this column with a few more stories, featuring a couple tales dating back when Elmer Koerner was the leader of the City band.

In 1951, the Naperville Municipal Band was invited to play in the Mardi Gras Parade in Chicago at Riverview Park, a large fun amusement park with five rollercoasters that closed in 1967. After marching in the parade, all the rides were free to anyone wearing a band uniform.
While lining up for the parade, leader Elmer Koerner told the band that whatever number they were playing, they were to stop before going past the reviewing stand and flip back to No. 1 in the book.
Well, the front of the band heard him. The back of the band did not. So just before the reviewing stand, the band stopped, and the front of the band flipped back to No. 1 and the back half flipped forward to No. 3.
The band played two different numbers at the same time as they marched past the judges.
And they got second place! I guess the judges figured they were pretty good if they could play two different marches at the same time!
Then there’s the story about Frank Bable. Frank played trombone on the left end of the front row when they marched in parades. In 1948, the parade route was changed from marching Washington Street to Naperville Cemetery. Instead the route changed to turn on Jefferson, west to Main, then south to the cemetery. The band was playing, coming down Washington, and the drum major blew the whistle to turn right on Jefferson. All except Frank heard the whistle. And he walked half a block before he noticed he was marching all alone! The band had to stop because they were laughing so hard.
In 1998, I was honored to travel to Europe to direct 16 NMB members and 40 musicians from throughout the U.S. on behalf of the Association of Concert Bands, a group that put together the tour. We visited Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Slovakia. That concert tour reminds me of a wine festival with many fun stories that will fill this column in July. Stay tuned!

Keller notes plans for his next chapter

Back in 2004, the Naperville Municipal Band hosted a fundraiser to outfit 20 members of the band in costumes modeled after the uniforms of the Naperville Light Guard Band of 1886. The recreation of the 20-member band was to perform in historic events. NMB Conductor Ron Keller was among the first to wear the uniform in the Memorial Day Parade that year. (PN File Photo)

Now I’ll end this month’s column with news that I’m retiring from the directorship of the NMB! I’ve been director for 57 years. Elmer Koerner led the band for 37 years until right before I took the job. That’s 94 years that the band has had only two directors!

At the end of the summer season, I’ll assume duties to be determined as Director Emeritus.  

Ron Keller photos courtesy Keller Family.

My dream as a young tuba player was to someday lead this band. My dream came true! I got to do it. It’s been a great experience and I’ve loved every minute of it.

My thanks to all musicians who have played and supported me all these years! I’ll leave the band knowing it’s one of the best community bands in the U.S. Over the years, the Naperville Municipal Band has won many awards and it’s been recognized by the John Philip Sousa Board of Directors as one of the best in the country.
Many thanks to all for a great career and enough fond memories to fill a book. It’s been a blast!
Editor’s Note: Do you have a Ron Keller story or favorite Naperville Municipal Band concert theme or memory that we can add to the book Ron threatens to write?
Just for the fun of it, please send brief handwritten or typed remembrances with name, address and contact info to: Ron Keller Story, Naperville Municipal Band, P.O. Box 474, Naperville, IL 60566. And thanks for the memories!

Everyone’s welcome to free NMB concerts in Central Park

The Naperville Community Concert Center in Central Park welcomes everyone to experience the Naperville Municipal Band summer tradition every Thursday from June 1 through August 10 in 2023. Since 2006, the big stage door has been graced with the colorful mural by artist Barton Gunderson, the 27th project depicting public art for the Century Walk tour. Watch the stage door go up promptly at 7:30PM. (PN File Photo)
7:30PM Thurs., June 1 / “A Salute to the Armed Forces” / Recognition of 2023 8th Grade Scholarship Recipients / Program directed by NMB Conductor Ron Keller and NMB Assistant Director Emily Binder
Assistant Conductor Emily Binder and Conductor Ron Keller led the Naperville Municipal Band on May 29, 2023, during Naperville Memorial Day observances. Both tuba players before becoming directors, Emily joined the band in 1987 while Ron joined in 1953. Under their leadership and creativity, the 10-week summer concert season begins June 1 in Central Park. (Photo by Jim Hoch)
The Naperville Municipal Band will continue its tradition of awarding a $250 music scholarship to one 8th grade student at every middle or junior high school in Naperville District 203, Indian Prairie District 204, Ss. Peter & Paul, and St. Raphael schools in Naperville. Students were nominated by their directors based on musical ability and can use the monetary award to continue their pursuit of music in the form of private lessons, summer band camp, or a new instrument.
The Naperville Municipal Band congratulates the following 8th grade students: Elise Carter (Fischer Middle School), Ethan Chang (Kennedy Junior High School), Annabelle Cheng (Crone Middle School), Nicholas Chou (Jefferson Junior High School), Sophia Granholm (Washington Junior High School), Kevin Grobl (St. Raphael School), Elisabeth Mendoza (Granger Middle School), Carlos Olvera Toledo (Thayer J. Hill Middle School), Titus Park (Lincoln Junior High School), William Petty (Scullen Middle School), Ian Rottersman (Madison Junior High School), Jacob Salvacion (Ss. Peter and Paul School), Tyler Talaga (Still Middle School), and Maxwell Teets (Gregory Middle School). 
Naperville Municipal Band members Rachel Israel (Concert Bake Sale Chair) and Allison Buettner (Scholarship Chair) contributed to this post about the June 1, 2023, concert. —PN

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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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