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Monday, March 4, 2024

Growing up in Naperville – Thanks for 57 years of memories

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The number 57 seems to be in my genes. I graduated from Naperville Community High School, now Naperville Central High School, on June 7, 1957. I entered Northern Illinois University and began my education to become a band director. It was a dream that I had ever since 8th grade!

The number 57 comes into my life again as I am completing 57 years as director of the Naperville Municipal Band. I’m retiring on August 10 after a great career of 57 years with the NMB.

When I was hired by the band, the board of directors was concerned that Elmer Koerner had such a long career with the band that they decided to name me the interim director. As far as I can remember I am still the interim director!

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The band has grown in numbers and musically to a point of being recognized by the Sousa Foundation as one of the best community bands in the country! I started in 1966 with about 55 members and today we have 90 members! I’ve had a great career both teaching and directing the NMB.

To quote a line from Lou Gehrig, “I consider myself one of the luckiest men on the face of the earth!”

I have a wife who is a partner, critic, and one of the most honest people I have ever known. She is also a mentor and has a great love of music!

On my 25th anniversary from graduating from high school, I was having a glass of wine with a classmate that I had not seen since graduation and she asked, “What do you do for a living?”

I told her I was a band director and she said, “You mean you stuck with your dream from high school?”

And I replied, “Yes, and I have had a great career!”

When I took over the band, Naperville had a population of about 15,000 to 20,000 people. Now it’s close to 150,000. And many of the people that moved in were engineers, lawyers, doctors and music teachers themselves. Many of them joined the band and a lot of them are still members! We have had 25 members who played 50 or more years in the band!

Teaching has always been a passion for me and one of my favorite stories is that one morning my daughter, Katie, said, “Dad, you never say you have to get to work, but instead you say I have to get to school.”

I answered Katie saying, “School is where I work, but it really is not work because every day is different!”

It’s been a great career and a wonderful life!

My thanks to the people of Naperville, VFW, American Legion, Naperville Park District and City Council for all their support all these many years. You are the reason the band continues to be successful!

Thanks to all!!

City Council pays tribute to Ron Keller on Aug. 15, 2023

With eight City Council members by his side, Mayor Scott Wehrli presented NMB Director Emeritus Ron Keller with a sign that will be displayed along Court Place in Central Park. When unwrapped, Keller discovered the sign says “Ron Keller Commemorative Way.”

During a special presentation on Aug. 15, 2023, the 9-member Naperville City Council feted Ron Keller upon his retirement after serving as conductor of the Naperville Municipal Band for 57 years. 

NMB Director Emeritus Ron Keller is sandwiched between Vicki Keller and Mayor Scott Wehrli during a special ceremony at the Naperville City Council meeting on Aug. 15. Note: Ron’s wife, Vicki, has been a member of the Naperville Municipal Band since 1969. She plays clarinet. Ron Keller has been known to play his tuba with the band for more than 71 years. (PN Photo)

Mayor Scott Wehrli presented Keller with a sign that will be displayed along Court Place in Central Park. With his wife, Vicki, by his side, appreciative Keller received the sign that says “Ron Keller Commemorative Way.”

Update August 20, 2023 / The sign designating Ron Keller Commemorative Way is now posted on the street light at Court Place and Concert Lane in Central Park.

 

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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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