Medina Community Band History, 1859 - 2009
Provided by a published Medina Community Band history by band member (and band historian) David Van Doren.
Why a town band? What possessed people of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to pay for support of and to hear a group or relatively untutored amateur fellow townsmen tootling away on a bunch of shiny horns? What possessed those fellow townsmen to try to learn, generally with little or no expert help, to play this array of shiny horns, and then to put up with weekly rehearsals and come out to play at a wide variety of town functions? The answers in a few words are - pride, sociability, hunger for entertainment, and later, habit.
Whether marching in parades on the Fourth of July, welcoming visiting dignitaries and officials to town, or "discoursing sweet music," bands - either primarily or exclusively brass in instrumentation - were unquestionably the most visible and audible musical organizations of the day. The Village of Medina, sometime in 1859 prior to a "serenade" by the Seville and Medina bands on 15 September, joined the growing number of communities in America that supported a town band.
The photo above is of the Medina Cornet Band on the Square in Medina in their bandwagon, depicting a scene from the 1860s. Joe Yeager, a Medina artist, painted this picture of a temperance rally from an old photograph. The Medina County Courthouse as it appeared in this era is at the upper left. Courtesy of the Medina Community Design Committee.
By early January 1870, efforts were under way to revive the Medina Band by way of raising money for the instruments. A set of instruments for 14 musicians was purchased from E.G. Wright & Company of Boston, Massachusetts for about $550, and all but the drums arrived by December. A band association had been organized in November. A constitution was adopted and officers of the association elected. The association owned the instruments, and probably the bandwagon from the previous band. The musicians commenced twice-a-week practices in their room in the Empire Block (directly northwest from the square). The drums having arrived in January, 1871, the MSCB began this reincarnation at a donation party with "half a dozen pieces" at Empire Hall on February 1st.
Independence Day was infrequently celebrated in Medina Village prior to the centennial in 1876. The Band’s part in the celebration began at 6a after the 100 cannon salute had been fired at 4a and understandably, “all Medina was awake.” They had “a parade excursion through town, discoursing national and patriotic strains. The bandwagon was gaily decorated with flags and steamers.”
The Medina Silver Cornet Band played for political rallies or “Mass Meetings,” as they were called, mostly Republican ones, and for victory celebrations following an election, complete with an occasional bonfire somewhere on the square. The Gazette editor, a staunch Republican, once wrote, “The Medina Band plays just as well for a Democratic as a Republican meeting, like the gentle rain from heaven that falls upon the unjust as well as the just.”
The picture at the left is of the color guard of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry with the colors of their regiment (ca. 1863-1865). This unit was probably very similar to those listed below serving Medina County.
The Band also played at reunions of various regiments of Ohio Volunteer Infantry from the Civil War. Included were the 42nd, 103rd, 124th, and 166th regiments, both in Medina Village and elsewhere. The Band was also expected to play at the Medina County Fair when not engaged elsewhere, which they did in 1871, 1874, and 1877.
The repertoire of the Medina Band concerts in those days comes to us in only two newspaper items. They played six numbers for a concert in the park in 1877 and a different six for a concert in 1880. By today’s standards, that does not seem like much, but we must remember that the musicians did not have the extensive music education training in the schools as is available today.
One Medina Village resident commanded enough respect for some aspects of his musical abilities to actually get paid for directing bands. Worden Babcock (pictured at right), a member of the first Medina Band, moved to Akron 1867 where three years later he developed an excellent 16-member Cornet Band that performed in Akron, Medina, and elsewhere. By June of 1877, Babcock was leading the Medina Cornet Band.
The band reorganized in 1878, probably as a result of the exhausting 1877 season in which the band was “out on the streets 72 times from April through December.” All but four or five of the 1877 band quietly retired. The new band only contained two of the 1870 band as well.
Dedication of the nearly finished new town hall and fire engine house came at Thanksgiving that year. The procession, lead by the Medina Cornet Band, was to have marched from the old engine house to the new one; however, it was so muddy that the equipment could not be brought out, and the procession marched on the sidewalks.
One of the few Fourth of July celebrations in the village from 1876 to the turn of the century was held in 1879, the MCB led a procession of the Medina Light Guards, city officials in carriages, and fire engine equipment around the square and neighboring streets.
A new enterprise by the Band, not new to the Village, was to give “ice cream festivals” in the park on some Saturday evenings. This implies that the MCB played in the square on a more or less regular basis, though this supposition was not verified by newspaper accounts. A difference between then and now is that it appears the Band was the recipient of any net profit, whereas today, the group doing the work at the social gets the profits.
The year 1879 was the busiest, followed by a general decline in activity until the prolonged disorganization in the 1890s. The problem was probably a combination of changing leadership and disinterest among the players. Lansing B. Smith was designated leader at the 1878 reorganization, but Worden Babcock returned to Medina and the Band in May of 1879, and started a marble and granite works to earn a living. The Band was again reorganized in 1880 with Babcock, Lansing B. Smith and Alexander Gaberdiel designed as the leaders.
After the reorganization in 1882, Edward Welling (pictured at left) was designated the new leader. He moved to Medina Village from Brunswick Township in or after 1880 and played a leading part in Medina Village music for over ten years thereafter. The holdover of players was not great, with six of ten of the 1880 Band from the 1878 Band, and only four of ten of the 1882 Band from the 1880 Band. Members were almost entirely the “hard-working mechanics.”
As happens now and again, a fad takes a community by storm, and then peters out with hardly a whimper. Such was the Village’s exposure to the roller-skating craze of 1882-86. A rink was set up in Phoenix Hall, and the MCB took advantage of the situation to play there about once a week for the entire season (October 21, 1882 to April 28, 1883), including twice on Thanksgiving Day.
The Band resumed its accustomed place at the head of the Village’s Memorial Day parade in 1883, which it did annually through 1889 under their new name of the “Grand Army of the Republic Band of Medina.” Several years previously, a Grand Army of the Republic organization of veterans of the Union Army in the Civil War had been established, with one of the duties of each local post to see that Memorial Day was properly observed in their community. Medina Village had such a post, but no connection was found between it and the Band. There were many other G.A.R. bands in Medina and surrounding counties, so perhaps this renaming of bands was just another fad.
As the pendulum swings, so went the fortunes of the band movement. No less than 13 different cornet bands plus the Medina G.A.R. Band played in the Village in 1883-84, a substantial improvement over 1881. These included bands from Berea, Canton, Chatham, Elyria, Hinckley, Liverpool, Lodi, Remson Corners, Seville, Sharon, Spencer, and Wadsworth. An impetus of some of this activity in the Village was a “Grand Bicycle and Band Tournament” held at the Medina County Fairgrounds in August 1883.
The greatest change in the membership of the Band took place in August of 1886 under the direction of Edward Welling. The change was the addition of woodwinds, well, at least one piccolo and one clarinet. Membership in the Band was increased to 22. Technically the Band was no longer a brass band, but the old name (e.g., Medina Cornet Band and Medina G.A.R. Band) were still used.
In 1887, the Band undertook a new way for it to earn money. They made arrangements for a minstrel company to perform in Phoenix Hall whereby the Band was to receive a certain share of the proceeds. The Band was so popular during that time that the operator of Chippewa Lake Park would advertise that the Medina Band would play there on such and such a date, but would not engage the Band.
The Band has just turned the corner from Washington Street north onto Court Street. The man marching beside the band is probably Director Edward Welling. Following the Band are H.G. Blake G.A.R. Post and veterans, dignitaries and the Ladies’ Committee. Courtesy of the Medina County, Ohio District Library.
The Band, under the name “The Citizens Band of Medina,” started a regular series of open air concerts during the summer months on the square in 1890. Unfortunately, the series was not repeated, or at least not reported, in subsequent years. However, there are hints that summer evening concerts were held on a more or less regular basis both before and after 1890.
In 1891, if not before, the Band was practicing in the town hall. They marched and played as usual in Medina’s Memorial Day observance, including the expected dirge and also a “sacred overture.” By the time the Medina County Fair was held in September 1891, for which the Band played, it was again being called the MSCB or MCB and only once more was called the Citizen’s Band in the Gazette. By whatever name, it was still in essence a community band.
In order to stir up interest in maintaining the Band, the Gazette editor seemed to become more and more desperate in his appeals. In March 1892 he wrote, “It has become one of the recognized and necessary institutions of the town. It is reported to us that its treasury is in depleted condition at present, and that if no aid is extended the disorganization will take place before the summer months.” A suggestion a week later was that “about six or eight lady musicians added to the Band and boys would all be on hand.” Problems seemed to include both money and musicians interest.
Welling advertised in April 1892: “Wanted – at once, a Tuba Player for amateur Band, to locate here for the coming season.” This action was really not that uncommon. Employers of the day or a little later sometimes advertised for workers who could play a musical instrument or ‘double in brass.’ Welling’s action was unusual in that it called for someone who would perhaps move to Medina only for a half year or so.
The Band, with or without a bass player, did make it through the Medina Memorial Day observation, but just barely. By July the Band was reorganizing. The effort was not fast enough, and the Wadsworth Band was called upon to play for the 1892 Medina County Fair. The Medina Band did play again on the square on Saturday evening in late September of 1892.
The editor of the Medina Gazette called for help from his readers to get the Band started again in April of 1893: Help the band. Boom the band. No town is complete without a brass band. Help the boys! One of the pleasant features during the summer season has been the evening concerts by the Band. Let it be resurrected. The Band had already been resurrected more times than the legendary Phoenix, yet it did it again for the Memorial Day observance.
The Citizens Band had been under the direction of Edward Welling (pictured at left). The Band had about one season of business as the Gazette had hoped, including a full summer season of the pleasant Tuesday evening concerts on the park, and music for the Republican campaign in October. Then the Band made a tactical error. They decided that the only way to keep up a band was to get new instruments, which they hadn’t had in 20 years. The citizenry did not see fit to come up with the $300 and the Band was not heard from again for five years.
The Gazette editorialized in 1899: What might be done to meet one of the town’s blushing needs? That Medina needs a band and needs it very much is certain! We are way behind the lighthouse when it comes to talking of band music. Seville, Wadsworth, and Chatham can all laugh at us here in the county seat. By June of 1899, Medina’s Comet Lodge No. 60 of the Knights of Pythias were talking of “organizing a band and insuring its support.” And so it came to pass that new band instruments were ordered and had arrived in early August. The new Band was out on a Saturday evening in mid-September to play “several pieces at the south-west corner of the Square.” Medina’s K of P Band, as it was now called, marched, played, and ate at one of the sponsor’s shindigs a month later.
The Band played off and on at Fourth of July festivities, at the Medina County Fair, several times a year for their sponsor, and occasionally at a political rally. Perhaps the activities most enjoyed by the citizenry were the regular, hour-long Saturday evening concerts from 7:30p (sun time – 27 minutes slower than Eastern Time) on the square from May or June into September or October. Typical descriptions of the open-air concerts were: a large crowd was in Medina Saturday evening to hear the band concert and trade. The evening was pleasant and profitable, both to those who came out to hear the band and to the merchants. It was quite logical for people, especially those from the countryside surrounding Medina, to combine business with pleasure as long as they were in town for one or the other.
The Gazette waxed eloquent in June of 1902: A number of years ago, a brass band was one of the luxuries of the city of 10,000 inhabitants. Now, the brass band has become an educator of musical taste, a purveyor to the pleasure of the community, a business venture which is more or less remunerative, and oftentimes a feature of public business by means of advertising and its relation to business enterprise. This advancement of a new feature in our own local progress is due to the recognition of the value of music, to the improved personal character of the band membership, to the laudable ambition of men who enter the organization to improve themselves in the art, and to the tendency of modern days to secure all the enjoyment and pleasure that can be purchased.
Medina’s new Knights of Pythias Band in 1901. Members were: (1) Roy E. Kimmel; (2) Charles H. Manville; (3) Desemus M. Sanford; (4) Walter Thorndike; (5) Ernest Edwards; (6) William J. Wall; (7) Bion Hawkins; (8) unnamed cornet player; (9) John F. Iper; (10) Charles H. Iper; (11) George A. West; (12) Albert H. Fretter; (13) Nelson R. Waltz; (14) Paul Dillman; (15) Charles E. Sacket; (16) Sherwood A. Bean; (17) Owen E. Crofoot; (18) Ned Hawkins; (19) Claude A. Kindig; (20) Edward Welling. Courtesy of the Medina County Historical Society.
The first K. of P. band director was William J. Wall (1899-1902 and 1904-March 1907 and pictured at right). He was a cornet player in the Band and worked as a druggist in the W.K. Albro store (corner of Washington and Court Streets) during his time with the band. He probably gave up leadership of the Band to study for the State of Ohio pharmacy examination, which he passed in 1908.
The age range of the 1899, 1901, and 1905 Bandsman was much greater than in any previous Medina Band. Several were over 60 and a few others were into their 40s. New occupations were evident as a result of technological advances. There was a telephone lineman, which sounds prosaic today, but which dealt with an industry less than 15 years old then. The drum major was an electrician. Medina’s electrical plant was no more than three to five years old at the time. In 1908, former Band Director William J. Wall was complimented on putting up a handsome new globe electric sign in from of his drugstore and the Gazettepledging to also erect electric illumination on the street. Albert Fretter opened an automobile garage in 1909.
In late July of 1900, Medina hosted Seville (pictured below), Wadsworth, and Spencer Bands. The Medina K. of P. Band mercifully played only two marches before turning the evening over to the Seville and Spencer bands (an hour each) and the Wadsworth Band (25 members).The business men of Medina did themselves proud in decorating for the occasion. The public square, bright with electric lights, Chinese lanterns and everywhere draped with flags, bunting and bright color, presented a sense of gayety never before witnessed in Medina. Two hundred cakes and 108 gallons of ice cream were consumed, to give an idea of the size of the crowd conservatively estimated at 4,000 andteams hitched to almost every street hitching-place within a half mile of the park.
Another innovation by the Band was a winter band-choral concert series designed to be a financial benefit to the Band. The first of these was held in February 1902 in Phoenix Hall, which by this time was a respectable theater with 500 seats, a stage, scenery and all. A full house heard a vastly improved Band, a choir of 40 members, plus Miss Floy Ager of Sharon who plied the audience with whistling solos. The next winter the Band presented a series of six concerts more or less in the ‘in the style of John Philip Sousa.’ The concerts had the normal band music of the era, plus vocal solos by persons outside the Band organization and instrumental solos by Band members for two performances. In subsequent years many of the soloists tended to be professionals from outside the village. Whether this was to add variety or improve the quality was never stated. Certainly, villager Edna Rickard was no slouch as a reader (a recite of selections; an elocutionist), as she later signed a contract with a Boston firm to tour the country in that capacity. One out-of-town soprano pleased those who could appreciate her high-toned musical efforts, but she was singing over the ears of most of her audience.
Jacob H. White led the Band from January to November 1903, when Wall took the reins again. Paul H. Dillman (pictured at left), cornet player in the Band and an insurance agent in the village, directed the Band from March to October 1907. He resigned after this short stint to move to Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
Stowell White (October 1907 to probably 1909 and 1913 to probably 1914 and pictured at right) played clarinet in the Band, was a machinist in 1910, a taxi driver, and a Village Marshall and night watchman in 1920.
Facilities for the Band concerts “on the square” had improved with time. The square had been raked and mowed in May 1899, with some flower beds constructed. There was a new bandstand erected at the southwest corner of the square in 1900, facing Washington Street, but closer to Court Street, and fitted out with electric lights which are to aid the Band boys, and make the whole scene a livelier one.
The Band’s one and only winter concert of 1908 was scrubbed when Phoenix Hall was shut down, and the Band could not find another hall on a week or so notice. From there onward this Band activity began to peter out.
Memorial Day parade in Medina, Ohio, May 30th, 1907, marching west on Washington Street, ready to turn north onto Court Street. Order of the procession was the Medina Cadets (already turned the corner), the K. of P. Band in the foreground led by Drm Major Albert Fretter, about 50 old soldiers, and schoolchildren carrying flowers and wreaths, followed in the distance by civilians afoot and in carriages. Courtesy of Alice Hartman Chester, whose father, Roland Hartman, played trumpet in the Band and is probably in the picture.
Only one of the five band directors during the K. of P. era was a professional musician. Maynard England (1910-1912). He had spent five months in Paris studying music in 1908, accompanied by his Cleveland-based instructor. He became the second composer associated with the Band of whom we are aware. In 1911, he wrote a march (not named in the newspaper) dedicated to the Band. He presided as director until the end of the summer season of 1912, when he was booked for 12 Christmas engagements in New York state.
In December of 1910, Director England wrote a letter in the Medina Sentinel wondering if during the coming winter are we (the Band) to be dead to all this community? Are we to merely exist in the summer and in the winter to crawl into our hold like a bear, there to await the coming season? He answered his own question with three concerts early in 1911 held in the Baptist Church, but the only one scheduled for winter of 1912 was lost to a blizzard. One more was played in 1913, and that was it for winter concerts during the K. of P. era.
While the Band did some traveling outside of Medina prior to 1910, the farthest they traveled, under the auspices of the K. of P. was Dayton (OH) in 1911, Cleveland (OH) in 1912, and Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1913. Aside from the growing steam and electric railroads being constructed in the county, there was another technological advance in transportation peripherally involving the K. of P. Band. The “first aeroplane flight in Medina County” came as the featured attraction at the 1912 Medina Village Fourth of July celebration at the Medina County Fairgrounds, for which the Band played. One of the Wright brothers’ staff of flyers “handled the levers of the big Wright biplane,” performing “all the tricks known to birdmen” before a crowd of 10,000 people, which was not bad for a village of under 3000 population. The whole affair was repeated in 1913, but ended in disaster. Not that the plane crashed; rather, it never took off. A huge thunderstorm wrecked the plane on the ground. The disaster was the death of three men on the Fairgrounds standing near a tree hit by lightning.
Reasons for the divorce of Band and the Knights of Pythias have not been found. In January, 1915, “at a meeting of the Medina Board of Trade … the report of the committee recommended that the Board become responsible for the local Band, formerly known as the K.P. Band, was accepted.” By April, all was settled. The Board had gotten by subscription from the villagers most of the necessary $550 for annual maintenance of the Band, and George M. Denton had been secured as Director for the “Medina Board of Trade Band.”
The annual activities of the Band continued to include the Memorial Day observance in the village and the summer concerts in the park. The former followed the same format used for many years, with the added attraction of flowers dropped from an airplane onto Spring Grove Cemetery in 1922. The concerts were as well received as always by the villages. For example, by actual count there were at one time during the Band concert last Saturday night 423 automobiles on Medina’s public square round the park at a late June concert in 1915. In June of 1923, an actual count showed more than 400 automobiles parked in and around the square at 8:30. It wasn’t until 1926 that parking was banned in the middle of the streets around the square.
Weekly rehearsals were held in the town hall on Monday evenings nearly year round. The range of other activities remained undiminished in scope, though perhaps somewhat reduced in numbers. Conspicuously absent from what the K. of P. Band had done were excursions to Cedar Point, Silver Lake, and so forth. Participation by the villagers had fallen off to the point that there was little or no money to be made any more in such enterprises.
Local orchestras were being formed which played some of the winter concerts that the Band used to perform. George A. Offineer had recently reorganized an earlier orchestra of his and his 16 member Medina Concert Orchestra played in mid-December 1914 at the Princess Theater (north side of the square). Seven of those orchestra members were or had been members of the Medina K. of P. Band.
In addition to community or church orchestras, music departments in various public schools in the county were turning out students with instrumental music training. Here was a potential feeder for providing new Band members, which was not fully exploited. These same schools also started orchestras as part of their music education curriculum. School bands came along a bit later than the orchestras, with Medina High School’s Band starting in 1922. A Boy’s Band was started in Medina in 1917, and probably become Medina’s Y.M.C.A. Boys Band by 1921, which included several members of the Board of Trade Band.
All was not always peaceful and serene in the good old days. As today’s Band must deal with trucks, traffic, and bikers, the Bands of past days had their problems as well. After George M. Denton, editor of the Sentinel, directed his first Medina Band concert in the park in 1915, the paper suggested that hereafter the ‘Ring around the posy’ boys and girls, who were having the time of their lives, not only hopping about, but yelling and making a great disturbance directly under the bandstand, could just as well be carried to another part of the park, thereby enabling the band to do better work and the listeners to more fully enjoy and appreciate the music. An extra large crowd turned out for a 1924 concert and the Band gave an entertainment that pleased all fortunate enough to get close enough to hear it.
The audience and the Band also had to contend with some suggestions about how playing and listening to The Star Spangled Banner were to be handled. It was urged that everybody standing, uncover, and those seated in the park or in autos arise. A further suggestion is that the Band also play the piece standing which the Band did do afterwards.
Membership in the Band had been hovering around 25 for a number of years. The “coming home of many boys” from World War I brought musicians with in-school high school instrumental music training as well as experience in service bands. Instrumentation early in 1922 was seven clarinets, five saxophones, four alto horns, ten cornets, five trombones, one baritone, three tubas, one bass drum, and two snare drums for a total of 38. Unlike bands from previous eras, nearly half of those playing were from outside Medina Village. The 1923 Band in particular reflected an influx of high school students. By 1925, the instrumentation was two piccolos, one oboe, ten clarinets, six saxophones, four alto horns, eight cornets, three trombones, two baritones, two tubas, and three drums.
The next year, a new constitution was adopted that reduced the size of the Band to a maximum of 30 by eliminating those deemed “too young.” It was proposed that a junior band, which would act as a feeder for the older organization would be adopted. The junior band was not seen in print again. Perhaps of interest to modern Band members is the policy of the 1922 Band which was precisely the same then as now. With historically high membership something needed to be done to ration the limited space on the bandstand and to maintain competence with the music to be played there and elsewhere. Part of the solution was that “attendance at rehearsals must be kept up or the tardy members will be prohibited from playing at engagements.”
Photo 1 of 3 – Medina Board of Trade Band taken at a picnic at Chippewa Lake Park in 1923 – from left to right: Roland Hoff, Stowell White, Fred W. Kelser, Roland S. Hartman, Alfred Dannely, Alvin Morelock, Myron Piece, Abner P. Nichols, Richard Venner, and Charles H. Iper.
Photo 2 of 3 – Medina Board of Trade Band taken at a picnic at Chippewa Lake Park in 1923 – from left to right: Roy Hinman, Robert W. Gable, George Coleman, Wayne Cadnum, John F. Iper, Fred Bohley, Ernest Barry, Silas Ashdown, Millard L. Warren, and, Vernon E. Blanchard.
Photo 3 of 3 – Medina Board of Trade Band taken at a picnic at Chippewa Lake Park in 1923 – from left to right: David J. Hurlebus, Charles F. Dannley, Joseph A. Seymour, Maynard N. Flickinger, Ethir Wyman, Clifford Bailey, Lauren F. Wainwright, and, Albert H. Fretter. (Courtesy of Alice Hartman Chester).
Selection of music for the Band to play was not a totally random action on the part of the director. Director George M. Denton write in 1915 that the attempt was made to present to the public each week a varied program of light and heavy numbers with a slight preponderance of the latter. This was attempted because … there seems to be a cultivated taste in Medina for good music, and because the director believes his musicians are capable of playing a heavier grade of music than they had been accustomed to playing. The message translates into the modern phrase ‘pushing the envelope,’ which Community Band Conductor Marcus Neiman uses occasionally as the Band struggles through a particularly difficult piece of new music.
The Board of Trade Band had six directors abetted by substitutes Fred Kelser(pictured at left) and Stowell White (pictured at right). First was George M. Denton (1915 – July 1916), editor of the Medina Sentinel from at least 1914 to 1932. In the 1920s, he played flute in and arranged some music for the Medina Community Orchestra. Ten years after his stint as band director, he was elected Mayor of Medina (1925-1929), under spending his opponent $7.40 to $10.50 or so, and in 1933 became a Medina County probate judge.
George A. Offineer (July 1916-August 1917) of Jeromesville (Ohio) had come to Medina from Lodi about 1907 as a “well-known” barber and five years later was hired by A.I. Root Company as a traveling salesman. He taught himself how to play cornet, which he did for a few years with the Band, plus piano and violin. An industrious fellow, he organized and led the two orchestras previously mentioned. As band director, he had done some arranging of music for them. He died at the age of 38, of a heart attack, four hours after directing a Saturday evening concert. The shortest tenure of this group of directors belongs to C.P. Draeger(August 1917-November 1917). He was assistant director at the time of Offineer’s death, and he temporarily led the Band until a new director was elected at the Band’s annual meeting.
The person so elected was Harry W. Lincoln (1917-1920), a garage foreman of Brunswick in 1920, who moved to Medina Village in 1922. He must have been a fine musician, as at one time he played clarinet in the pit orchestra at the Hippodrome Theatre in Cleveland, and played clarinet and cello solos at various functions during the 1920s and 1930s in and around Medina Village. He had another four-year hitch as Medina Band Director (1927-1930), played in various orchestras in the village, and took over the leadership of the Medina Symphony Orchestra in 1929 when founding director John Beck left Medina. Lincoln also manufactured cellos from a shop in his basement, and in 1917 started the Medina School of Music in the Bradway block wherein he, John Beck, and George M. Denton were three of the five instructors.
As active as Lincoln was, the next director, John F. Beck (1921-1925) (pictured at left) was even more so. A native of York Township in Medina County, Beck was pianist for the Princess Theatre in 1913, studied piano and organ at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, taught piano in Medina from 1915 to 1929, was organist and choir director for different churches in Medina, and played innumerable organ recitals all over the area. When he was selected to be director of the Medina Band, he was also director of two church choirs and the Medina Community Orchestra. The latter group became the Medina Symphony Orchestra and played in the village park on Sunday afternoons in the summer before crowds of up to 1,000 people, had many a winter concert series, and was one of the first Medina musical groups to be heard over Cleveland radio. In 1921, he also reintroduced one of the annual complimentary Band concerts in the summer to be played on other than a Saturday evening. All this occurred while he was director of music at Medina Senior High School. He resigned from Band leadership after the 1925 season. After rejecting several job offers, Beck finally left Medina for Euclid, Ohio, in 1929.
Stowell White substituted for John Beck for a week in 1921, and for a month or so during each of the next two summers. The latter were times when Beck was attending music summer school in Cincinnati. White was a jack-of-all-trades in his earning a living and his music. It was said that “he could fill in and be at home anywhere from director to playing most any instrument down to the bass drum. Fred Kelser, helped White out in 1923.
Lauren F. Wainwright (pictured at left), a U.S. Navy veteran of WWI and foreman of the Gazette mechanical department, rounded out the Board of Trade Band directors by assuming the task for 1926. He did a considerable amount of vocal solo work in and around the Village for the Medina Band and various churches, as well as directing church choirs. His experience with bands including having had distinct success with boys’ bands in four other localities, plus directing the Medina County Y.M.C.A. Boys’ Band from 1922 until it no longer appeared in the newspaper. For a time in the mid-1930s, he had an 11-piece German band for hire. Wainwright was elected to one term as Medina’s mayor in 1947.
Harry S.G. Stoudt (trombone) wrote Okisko Rag in 1915 while he was the lead trombonist in the Baldwin-Wallace Symphony. Fred Kelser wrote Lakeside is the Place for Me, strangely enough, while at Lakeside, Ohio, in the summer of 1916. Richard Warner, a high school age percussionist, produced the march, Medinian, which he dedicated to the Band in 1925. He also composed a saxophone trio and arranged Medina High School’s “Victory Song” for the Band. Warner later became a college music professor.
The end of WWI was celebrated twice in Medina, as it undoubtedly was all over the country. A premature report of an armistice on November 7, 1918 resulted “in a monster crowd … and there was a big parade around the square and the Medina band gave a patriotic concert.” When the real thing came along four days later, the celebration was even bigger, noiser, and longer-lasting than before. The parade on November 11 “consisted of several bands of more or less merit.” Hopefully, the Medina Band, if there, was one of those bands with “more merit.”
The Band was part of a July fiasco in 1924 (July 1). A much-heralded “Ford day parade,” postponed from a month earlier, was to take place around the square. The Band fulfilled its obligation. It marched over to the corner of North Broadway and Liberty streets, but there was no parade there. It marched around the other half of the square and did its part by going up onto the platform (bandstand) and playing a few pieces. After a while a half dozen Fords gathered together and ‘paraded’ around the square. All this prompted the Gazette to write: The King of France had 40,000 men, marched up the hill, and then marched down again. The Medina Band, with no Fords behind, marched around the square, but could not the parade find. The merchants did; however, report it to have been a good trading day.
Work toward a new bandstand began in 1925. A standing committee, The Medina Community Organization, obtained drawings of bandstands from several concerns, with or without a roof, with or without a comfort station, and all designed to be built over the existing fountain and surrounding basins in the center of the square. The roof caused some anxiety. The location caused a great deal of anxiety. After two years of committee meetings and other expenditures of hot air, the Gazette held a straw vote among Medina Village citizens of all ages between leaving the fountain in the Park center or replacing it with a bandstand. The fountain won 1,447 to 49. The County Commissioners, whose responsibility the park was, replaced the fallen-down fence around the basin, the Gazette paid for flowers and ferns around the basin, the water was turned on, goldfish were put back in the basin, gravel was added to cover the soil in the basins to clear the water so the fish could be seen again, and the Band went back to the old bandstand for the rest of the summer.
Before Memorial Day of the next year the old bandstand was moved from the southwest corner of the park to a station just east of and as close to the fountain as possible – the removal being accomplished without any blast of trumpets. It was given new flooring and new steps, dressed in green paint, and the wooden seats for spectators were repaired.
The Medina Board of Trade was not the most active of sponsors, perhaps because it was in general decline. The Board was essentially dead by the early 1920s, but waited until 1926 to officially fold its tent. By that time its functions had been taken over by the Kiwanis and other groups, through no formal compact between any of these and the band had been found.
Band directors during this era were Harry Lincoln and Fred W. Kelser (pictured at left). Lincoln, director of the Band of Trade Band from 1918 to 1921, had a four year hitch from 1927 to 1930. Fred Kelser did the honors from 1931 to 1937. Fred’s father, a minister, had moved his family to Medina County in 1905. Fred graduated from Otterbein College (Westerville, OH) with a degree in music, and taught at Carroll College in Helena (Montana) before being drafted in WWI. He played French horn in a military band with overseas service. Kelser sang many solos and duets, some with the Medina Band, and directed the Methodist Church choir for a few years.
The Band no longer rehearsed or performed year round. Rehearsal sessions began as late as April or May. As late as 1929, the Band was still rehearsing in “their room” in the town hall. From 1934 until 1936, they rehearsed at Medina High School, now the Garfield Elementary School building (pictured at right); during 1936 and 1937, they were in the basement of the Post Office (the building now numbered 207 South Court Street).
The Band did; however, continue its participation in the Memorial Day parade and activities in the park afterwards. By 1934, this was done without uniforms. Weather could be a problem as well. While attempts were made to move concerts to the high school auditorium, by the time decisions were made, the crowds were gone. Concerts were still held on Saturday evenings during their summer season.
While a proposal by Albert Fretter, in 1928, was made for sound amplification for the Band, nothing happened. While pleas from Band Director Kelser for a larger bandstand were unanswered, a separate podium was build for him to stand on and conduct the Band in 1933.
We know that the Medina High School Band was playing concerts in the park on Wednesday evenings in August of 1928 on the bandstand in the center of the park. The high school band also played in a parade and concert on South Court Street at the December 1929 opening of the Fisher Brothers grocery and meat store. This was an inevitable change as the school band movement grew.
The size of the Medina Band ranged from 25 to 30 players for the first few years of this era, capped by the drafting of a new constitution. Membership was on the decline and by 1933 was down to 22 members, and by 1937 down to 20 members.
The National Reconstruction Administration (NRA) caused a bit of turmoil over the Band’s concert hour in 1933. According to NRA dictates, businesses were required to close no later than 9 p.m. The Band concerts were running 8 to 9 p.m., and the merchants felt that “crowds of possible purchasers were being kept away from the stores.” A compromise for the succeeding week had the concerts running from 8:30p until 10p.
From a financial point of view, the Band was now “on its own.” Members were usually paid a few dollars a season for their efforts of playing 10 to 12 concerts a year. For a few years prior to 1929, the business community had acted to solicit operating funds from within their ranks. In 1929, Medina embraced The Community Chest concept for the first time, and exceeded its goal by about 50%. Included in their benevolence was $750 for the Band. The Band played several times that fall for the cause. The Band’s share was cut to $550 in 1931 to allow the Community Chest to also support the King’s Daughters.
In 1932, The Medina County School Band played three Saturday evenings concerts interspaced with the Medina Band’s concerts to extend the concert season. Despite the help of the Community Chest and the County School Band, the Medina Band could no longer sustain a summer concert season beyond eight concerts, which was the total concerts held in 1934. There were no concerts in the summer of 1935. The Band did perform at the Memorial Day of 1935.
Harold Zeigler, of the merchants, and Stowell White, of the Band, canvassed Medina merchants and raised sufficient money to enable the village to have ten concerts in 1936. Fred Kelser, who had spent the previous year teaching music in Montana, returned for the summer as part of the park concerts. He held audience sing-a-longs, perhaps for the first time as part of the park concerts.
In 1936 solicitation of the merchants did not generate enough funds to field the band. There were no funds to field a band during the 1937 season, but the Band played for the last time in 1937 for the Memorial Day Parade. The high school band took the Medina Band’s place in the 1938 Memorial Day parade, and the Medina Chamber of Commerce hired the 105-piece County School Band for three concerts in the park that year. And, for the first time, a public address system was available for speeches in the 1939 Memorial Day exercises.For the second year in a row, the Medina Chamber of Commerce was expected to hire the County School Band to a series of summer concerts in the park. Unfortunately, there are no reports of any concerts having actually taken place in 1939 by any band.
The activities of the first “modern” Medina Community Band began in 1943. The activities, leadership, and finances of the Medina Community Band (MCB) were very straightforward. Gone were the money-raising activities, the winter and out-of-town concerts, the Memorial Day parades or parades of any kind, the Band constitution, and elections of officers, the serenades, and political rallies. All that was left were the seven, usually eight concerts, to as many as 11 annual, free, open-air concerts in the uptown Park on weekends sometime during June, July, and August. The hour-long concerts started anywhere from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays from 1943 to 1951, and Fridays thereafter because the merchants had decided to keep their establishments open on Friday evenings instead of Saturday evenings as before.
Band directors during this period were all employees of the Medina Village/City School System, with all the background of schooling and directing that was necessary to obtain those jobs. They were paid for this extracurricular activity by the Band’s sponsor, at least after the Medina Chamber of Commerce became sponsor in 1946.
The first Band director of this era was Paul T. Wagner (pictured at left), supervisor of music in the Medina City Schools. Public schools referred to classroom teachers who taught band in more than one building (at more than one level) as “supervisor’s of music,” rather than band directors. Wagner directed in 1943, but enlisted in the Marines and reported for duty just before the 1944 concert season began. He served as a bandmaster at Parris Island, South Carolina, and later in Australia. After the war, he returned to Medina for one more year in the school system, this time as director of instrumental music, and as director of MCB (1946).
Fred Kelser (pictured at right), director of the Medina Band in the 1930s, filled in as MCB director in 1944, as well as bring principal for Medina City Schools’ Garfield Elementary (234 South Broadway Street). It should be understood that the Garfield Elementary Building was the first Medina High School. When the school district moved the high school to 144 North Broadway Street, the old high school became Garfield Elementary. When the school district moved the high school to 420 East Union Street, the old high school first became Medina Junior High School, then the County Administration Building.
With the director of the Band now being a faculty member for the Medina Schools, to the best of our knowledge, we believe that rehearsals were held in the music rooms (or band rooms) of the high school. For this era, that would mean that rehearsals were held in the High School (Garfield Building, 234 South Broadway Street) from the beginning of this era (1944) through 1956, when the high school then moved to 144 North Broadway Street. The Band rehearsed in the band room (and stage) in the 144 North Broadway Street building until the high school moved to 420 East Union Street in 1957. From 1957 to the end of this era (1960), rehearsals were held in the band room of the then senior high school at 420 East Union Street (now Claggett Building).
Pictured above is the Medina Community Band on a summer night in 1944 on the square in Medina. Picture courtesy of the late Julia Hatch. We assume that Fred Kelser is conducting the band.
The next director, Vance O’Donnell (pictured at left), served as director twice. The first time was in 1945, when he was supervisor of instrumental music for the Medina City Schools. He had gone to Wadsworth and taught in the Wadsworth City Schools, in a similar position in 1946 and returned to Medina in 1947 as head of the music department at Medina High School. O’Donnell then directed the MCB from 1947 through 1949, after which he moved to Alliance, Ohio, to become high school band director at Alliance High School.
Next came G. Gordon Ritter (1950 and 1951) who was hired in Medina as supervisor of instrumental music for the Medina City Schools. Ritter had ten years of experience in Ohio and Florida leading marching and concert bands and orchestras before coming to Medina. Ritter left the Medina City Schools to teach in Dover at Dover High School beginning in the year 1952.
Following Ritter’s short tenure as director of MCB was the much longer one of Richard N. Stacey (1952-1962). Stacey (pictured at right) was at one time a high school pupil of Ritter’s in Marietta, Ohio. Before being hired in Medina as supervisor of instrumental music, Stacey was director of music at Fredericktown, Ohio. It should be known that Stacey was the longest surviving director of MCB prior to Marcus Neiman becoming conductor. He became principal at Medina Junior High School in 1963, and relinquished the role as director of the MCB.
The first Band sponsor of this era was the Medina War Bond Committee. They were responsible for organizing whatever weekly program was to be in addition to or in place of the MCB. They were also the sponsor in 1944 and probably in 1945 as well, though corroboration of the latter has not been found. Programs included speeches about the patriotism of buying War Bonds, community singing led by Fred Kelser and assisted no end by song sheets passed out among the audience, plus outside musical combos such as the Sally West Trio from Cleveland and several aerial acts. Concerts, in addition to those of the MCB, were performed by the LeRoy Boy Scout Band (1943-45), the Liverpool High School Band (1944), directed by Donald Parfitt, and the Berea Community Band (in 1945).
The Medina Chamber of Commerce was the next sponsor of the summer concerts starting in 1946 and continuing through the end of this era and well into the next era. The Chamber paid for “necessary expenses from treasury funds, thereby eliminating donations by businessmen.”
Band members were primarily drawn from the Medina High School Band, through some effort was made to enlist adults from the community. This differed markedly from prior eras in which most of the members were adult males. According to newspaper announcements of the upcoming rehearsals, participation seemed to be limited to those residing in Medina County.
At the very beginning of this era, there was also another major change in membership. A large number of the musicians were females! Until 1937, the only female discovered to have been a Band member was Mildred Schlabach, who doubled as a clarinet player and vocal soloist in the late 1920s. This occurred despite most, if not all, other County musical organizations having co-educational long before the Medina Band’s temporary demise in 1937. In contrast to the uniformed Medina Bands of earlier times, the MCB made no attempt to have uniformity of dress.
Band members no longer received any financial payments for their participation, but the Chamber of Commerce treated to a dinner the evening of the last concert of the season those musicians who had attended a specified minimum number of concerts (four to six) and/or the last concert.
Rehearsal from 1943 through 1956 were held for 90 minutes once a week in the band room at the high school at 144 North Broadway Street and started on April 5th in preparation for the May 29th first concert. The rehearsal schedule changed to two rehearsals a week, only in 1948, in an attempt to “help the quality of the concerts.” Thereafter, rehearsals started the week of the first concert of the season.
The “temporary” bandstand used during WWII continued to be used afterwards. In 1952, the bandstand had been moved to the north edge of the square. It was used for several years before being replaced there in 1956 by a concrete slab with low walls, donated by Albert Snyder, much like the present bandstand now occupying the site. The latter was given to the city by the Breakfast Kiwanis Club of Medina. The Band also had the use of loudspeakers by 1964.
Since neither these, nor any other bandstand used in the era, had any storage space, the Band had to move stands, folding chairs, and percussion equipment from rehearsal room in the high school to the bandstand and back again for each concert. While rehearsals were in the Broadway Street high school, this was not a major challenge as long as each student helped move their own equipment. With the move of the high school in 1955 to 420 East Union Street (pictured at left and now called Claggett Building), all of this paraphernalia had to be moved by truck.
Vocal soloists, through technically not part of the Medina Bands, certainly have added to the variety and enjoyment of Band performances over the years. Some have been high school students, some college students, some were adult villagers, especially in the early part of the last century, and some also played instruments in the Band. Some sang the same song or songs several times during a given year and even year after year, perhaps because the Bands’ libraries were limited, or perhaps on demand.
Community singing, an off-again, on-again affair at the summer concerts, became a regular feature by 1963. Often the vocal soloist of the evening would lead the audience through the intricacies of “Down By the Old Mill Stream,” “When You Wore a Tulip,” “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “My Wild Irish Rose,” and other old favorites.
Vocal soloists, through technically not part of the Medina Bands, certainly have added to the variety and enjoyment of Band performances over the years. Some have been high school students, some college students, some were adult villagers, especially in the early part of the last century, and some also played instruments in the Band. Some sang the same song or songs several times during a given year and even year after year, perhaps because the Bands’ libraries were limited, or perhaps on demand.
The free Friday evening concerts in the uptown park or square, formerly held on Saturday evenings, have been more popular over the years than we may suspect. A community attitude survey conducted in 1965 by the Junior Chamber of Commerce asked as one of the questions: “What do you like most about Medina?” The large majority of those answering the survey questionnaire replied: “The summer Band concerts.” By 1967, the Junior Chamber had become a co-sponsor of those concerts.
Following Ritter’s short tenure was a much longer one of Richard N. Stacey(1952-1962). Stacey (pictured at right) was at one time a high school pupil of Ritter’s in Marietta, Ohio. Before being hired in Medina as supervisor of instrumental music, Stacey was director of music at Fredericktown, Ohio. He became principal at Medina Junior High School in 1963, and relinquished the role as director of the MCB. The last two years of Stacey’s MCB tenure, Medina Junior High School band director, James Staten directed the first half of the 1961-62 summer seasons while Stacey was at summer school in Columbus.
Medina High School band director Robert Dubbert led the MCB in 1963. Dubbert (pictured at left) was in Medina only for the 1962-63 school year.
Charles E. Carey (1964-1970), a fellow Ohio State University marching bandsman of Stacey’s, was hired in 1963 to direct the Medina High School Band and became the new director of the MCB in 1964. Carey (picture at right) had been an assistant director for seven years at Wilmington, Ohio before coming to Medina. In addition to directing, he played an occasional cornet, trombone, or euphonium solo or played in a trio or quartet with the Band. While his opinion of what music to play might not have been universally accepted, since he was the director, his opinion was what counted. In 1965, Carey had rehearsed the MCB in a couple of rock and roll numbers, “but decided against them for Band use. ‘The repetitious Beatle beat might put both the crowd and the Band members to sleep,’ he said.” Carey became very involved with the vocal program in the schools and production of various musicals, from which came many of the vocal solos with the MCB. This full schedule caused him to relinquish leadership of the MCB after the 1970 season.
Terry Puehler (pictured at left, provided by Pete Ulrich, principal, Highland High School), a member of the Medina City Schools’ music faculty, directed MCB for the 1971 season. Puehler had played trombone solos with the Band as far back as 1958. All in all, the MCB seasons during the past era and into the new era, were like the weather of the times, pleasant, placid, and predictable. Following the 1971-72 school year, Puehler resigned his position as head band director at Medina High School to take the position as head band director at Highland High School (Highland Local Schools).
Walter Bixler, (directing MCB on Friday, June 26th, 1970 – at right) was an instrumental music teacher at Medina Junior High School and taught in the various Medina elementary schools. He directed the MCB during the summer of 1972. Bixler had played cornet in the Band from 1963 to about 1971 with an occasional solo along the way. He directed the band a few times when a substitute was needed for the regular director.
Marcus Neiman (pictured at left) was hired to replace Terry Puehler as Medina’s high school band director in August of 1972. At his interview, he was informed by the Superintendent of Schools for Medina City Schools that “part of your high school responsibilities would be to conduct the Medina Community Band Friday nights, June through the end of July in the summer. Payment, $300 for the season, would be paid by the concert sponsors.” Neiman’s first season as director of MCB would be the 1973 summer concert season.
The first two years under Neiman’s leadership were much like the previous 24 years. Rehearsals were held in Medina High School band room (420 East Union Street) and began a week or two prior to the start of the first concert in June. Concerts were held every Friday evening, beginning at 8:30 p.m. and continuing for about an hour, on the concrete bandstand located on the north side of the Medina Public Square, June through the end of July.
The MCB personnel was composed almost exclusively of members of the high school band and a few adults who had been members of MCB in the past. Instrumentation was often a challenge and it was hard to tell from week to week who would be playing and on what instrument. The level of music rehearsed and later performed was easy enough that it could be read by high school students with one reading and performed, with some semblance of perfection, on Friday evenings.
While MCB had a small library of music that it owned, virtually none of the music from the past bands could be found or used. A reciprocity agreement existed between Medina City Schools and Medina Community Band that allowed any music purchased by MCB to be used by the high school bands and music owned by the high school bands to be used by MCB. The high school band librarian also assisted with preparation of music folders for MCB.
Medina City Schools’ personnel moved chairs for the concerts and each band member brought a folding stand to use during the concert. And, up through the 1970s, City of Medina workers moved wooden planks and mason blocks to the square for the audience to sit and enjoy the concert (see photo on left) At the end of the 1973 season there was a picnic for the band by the Memorial Swimming Pool to which MCB members brought their own food, rather than having it provided for them.
The 1974 Independence Day concert was held in the high school stadium prior to the fireworks rather than on the Square. The desire of City and School officials was that having the concert in the stadium would be a unifying factor, draw a bigger crowd, and be a “fun night for all.” The concert was started later than usual and the band was asked to play selections of music during the early fireworks. Unfortunately, there was no sound amplification for the band and hearing them play was a problem. Overall, it was an unpleasant experience. The audience could not hear the band, and most were there for the fireworks not to hear the concert and talked through the entire performance. The band could not see their music as the night went on and no one wanted to turn the stadium lights on for fear it would interfere with the fireworks. When the fireworks finally did start, the band could not see them (being right under the display) and the smoke from the fireworks completed covered the band making the performance of any music impossible. Despite requests from the “powers to be,” MCB did not repeat the exercise. Concerts continued to be held on July 4th, for a time at 7:30 p.m. to allow concert goers to make it to the 9:45 p.m. fireworks; however, the start time was soon moved to 8:30 p.m. to be consistent with all other MCB concerts.
The pace quickly changed in 1975. The work of the Uptown Park Committee, former MCB director Charles Carey, and others fostered work to construct a gazebo (pictured at left) on the square in Medina. Medina’s new gazebo was patterned after the lovely Victorian-style gazebo in Bellville, Ohio, financed by the Letha House Foundation, and built on the site of the former park-center fountains. The fountains had been in disrepair for a number of years and the time seemed right for the gazebo.
The addition of the gazebo may have been a huge improvement to the picturesque quality of the square, but the initial logistics took some time to work out. O.C. Duke and Carey had lobbied the Uptown Park Committee successfully to include a basement in the gazebo, to store chairs and stands for MCB, as well as equipment to care for the square. The gazebo was designed to seat 50 band members, in theory. The first few concerts of the season featured MCB in the gazebo and their percussion and low brass sections on risers behind and on the sides of the gazebo. From a safety (and liability standpoint), not to mention aesthetic standpoint this solution to getting the full band on the gazebo was not acceptable. Neiman soon reduced the size of the band and soon had the entire ensemble inside the gazebo.
It should be noted that through the work of both Mayors August “Gus” Eble and Fred Greenwood, truck traffic around the square was rerouted (Rt 18 to South Jefferson, South Jefferson to East Smith, East Smith to South Elmwood, and South Elmwood to Rt. 18). This rerouting of the trucks was greatly appreciated by the Band and concert attendees. The practice only lasted through Fred Greenwood’s administration.
Also new were the MCB sponsors. After 29 years of supporting summer band concerts, the Medina Chamber of Commerce decided that it did not have sufficient resources to finance the band. The Kiwanis Club of Medina (‘Noon’ Kiwanis and newly formed ‘Breakfast’ Kiwanis), through the efforts of Carl F. Steinbach and Kenneth Robinson, accepted MCB sponsorship during 1974. A Medina Community Band Association, which included Kiwanis personnel and Neiman to handle MCB business, was incorporated in the state of Ohio and obtained it’s 501(c)(3) tax status to allow it donations from patrons to receive tax credit. Expanded expenses for the Band certainly generated part of this change; however, the available time to manage and available finances of the Chamber certainly had a great deal to do with the change of sponsorship. A special fund drive by the Kiwanis clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, and spearheaded by then-mayor August “Gus” Eble raised enough money to make it through the 1975 season.
For the first time, patron support was solicited from the entire community to add to funds raised from sponsors. Thus, MCBs future changed from one hinged on how generous the merchants were in their support of the band, to one seeking funds from those who actually attended the concerts. Patrons and sponsors had their names listed in the weekly concert programs. There were 51 patrons listed by the end of the 1975 season. MCB was off and rolling on a new way of funding the Band.
The cost of running the Band in the 1930s was $700-$900, per year, in constant dollars. Despite the fact that the musicians of the era’s Band were not paid, there were expenses. While the primary source for band music for MCB was the Medina High School band library, Neiman felt that using “educational music” (music composed to teach students how to play) was not always appropriate for “entertaining” concert-goers on the square. Likewise, to grow the band, it would be important to find music that was not only appropriate for the venue, but also challenging and entertaining for the Band to play. In addition, Neiman felt that while doing community service by conducting the Band was important, the amount of time involved in pre-search rehearsals, concerts every Friday evening through June and July, post-search work of removing music from the folders and preparing for the coming season, had a value greater than $300.
Support for the band concerts also came in “in-kind” donations. From 1976 until 1985, the Medina printing firm of Repro Depot played a part in Friday evening concerts by printing the evening’s programs gratis. Equipment movement was still donated by Medina City Schools, as well as use of rehearsal facilities.
Neiman also felt that the time had come to move MCB more toward a community band and less an extension of the high school band. To those ends, the size of the band that performed on the gazebo would be limited to 35 to 40 members, partially due to the size of the gazebo and more toward establishing a more consistent instrumentation for the band. An ideal instrumentation consisted of, but not necessarily limited to: 1 piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 6 clarinets, 2 alto and 1 tenor saxophones, 4 horns, 6 cornet/trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 euphoniums, 2 tubas, and 3 percussion. Despite all efforts, the entire 52 member ensemble consisted of 58% (students) to 42% (adults) during the year of the dedication of the gazebo.
The picture above was taken about the time the Gazebo was dedicated while Neiman was still director of the Medina High School Band. The picture became so popular that it would be used as a post-card for the City of Medina. The attire for the band continued (from the 1973 season) as a white shirt, with a community band logo and Gazebo, black slacks, and black shoes and socks. Neiman wore his “Medina High School band director’s green suite” for the majority of this era. The initial concert was scheduled for Friday, June 6th, 1975, as listed on this page of the program; however, it rained that evening and the celebration was moved to the following week. Of note, are the sponsoring organizations: City of Medina, Medina Chamber of Commerce, Medina Park Trust, Uptown Park Advisory Committee, and Medina Community Band and Community Band Association.
During the early 1970s, select area high school students were auditioned (by Neiman) for placement in the band and would be permitted only with the recommendation of their director. An assurance that MCB activities would not interfere with other school bands was also enforced. It was a start.
Some of the adult members had either stayed with the band or come back after attending college and relocating back to Medina: Jackie Gowe Kehnle (alto saxophone and Medina High School) and Anthony Ratajcak (trumpet and NASA scientist) came back and stayed for many years beginning in 1965; Jackie’s high school stand partner, Nancy Bader(also saxophone returning in 1975). Copley junior high school band director Mitch Greenawalt (horn); Medina florist Alan Parkhurst (percussion); Chuck Stiver (percussion); the late Jeff Woosnam (low brass); and, NASA engineer Curt Leibert (trombone) came in 1976-1977 and most stayed for ten or more years.
It should also be understood that the only other community (or town) band that was still running in Medina County was the Litchfield Town Band, under Kenneth Bradley. The Goodyear Community Band (under Steve File) was still running in Akron and the Clinton Community Band, under Art Ulmer, were the only true community bands within a quick drive of Medina.
Walter Bixler (conducting rehearsal at left), conducted MCB the summer between Puehler’s departure and Neiman’s arrival. Puehler, as stated above, resigned following the 1971-72 school year and was not employed by Medina City Schools during the summer of 1972. Neiman was not hired until August of 1972 and did not conduct his first summer season until 1973. Bixler was featured in an article which appeared on Friday, June 26th, 1970, in the Akron Beacon Journal. The article indicated that rehearsals, at least during this era took place on Thursday evenings prior to the Friday concert. Bixler said that “you never know from week to week if you’ll have the right number or the right kind of instruments.” At least on that night, there were enough tubas, put no piccolo. Seventy-five percent of those in that particular band were high school students. George Bird (of Elyria on clarinet); Leonard Machles(principal of Medina Canavan Elementary School on oboe); and Gordon Smith (a newcomer to Medina from New York serving as the evening’s vocal soloist who would sing “Camelot”) were among the ten or 12 adults playing that week.
Neiman also believed that preparation for the season demanded more rehearsal time than two weeks prior to the season. Bi-monthly rehearsals began in October of 1975 for the 1976 season. Neiman’s hope was for the Band to become more than just a summer community band.
The first winter concert of a non-high school Medina Band since December, 1922, was held on Sunday afternoon in January 1976, in the new auditorium of the new Medina High School (777 East Union Street). This concert was somewhat unique in that Medina Historical Society members related “the County’s history between each piece and displayed items, including a Civil War uniform and women’s gowns.” Paid attendance was estimated at about 400, earning enough to “finance a whole year’s concerts.” And, due to scheduling conflicts the concert had to take place on the same afternoon as the Super Bowl.
The concert was also unique in that almost all the instrumental music teachers in the county participated in the program as members of the band. This show of unity was due in part to the celebration of the bicentennial.
The Band was given two months off and reconvened in March for bimonthly rehearsals preparing for a Sunday concert in late April, again in the new high school auditorium. Both non-summer concerts, plus all the summer concerts were billed as “Bicentennial Concerts” in honor of the 200th year since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Cost of tickets for each concert was $2. The Band had another spring concert in April of 1977.
The lovely Victorian-style gazebo (pictured at left), patterned after the gazebo in the town park in Bellville, Ohio and financed by the Letha House Foundation, was built on the site of former park-center fountains. It was dedicated at a MCB concert in June, 1975, and the band has played its summer concerts there ever since. The only season during this era that MCB did not use the Gazebo was during that year, when the Gazebo was being repaired and repainted. The Band used the concrete pad formerly known as “the bandstand.”
The MCB was still being sponsored by the two Kiwanis clubs in Medina at the beginning of this era. That changed in 1988, when the Medina Breakfast Kiwanis Club took over sole sponsorship of the MCB. It was the belief of the Noon Kiwanis Club that the time and personnel drain of the sponsorship was weighing heavily on its membership.
The 1982 summer season was such a musical success that Marcus Neiman, conductor of the ensemble, gave all the Band members a 100% pay raise, and even put it in writing. Since their previous pay was zero, that bit of tongue-in-cheek generosity was not an undue strain to the budget.
Repo Depot, a printer in the city of Medina, continued to provide “in-kind” support for the community band association (MCBA) by donating the cost of printing the concert programs at no cost to the association. This continued through the 1985 season.
The MCB of the 1980s and 1990s did not have the social cohesion of bands in the 19th century. This is to be expected. In the ‘good old days,’ most, if not all, Band members were from Medina Village and interacted at times other than Band rehearsal times or concerts. Since half the band lived outside of Medina City, few saw each other except for Band doings. Band parties, picnics, and other get-togethers were tried with little success.
That is not to say that Band members did not socialize together. During this period, many of the Band members would frequent Bix’s (short for Bixby) restaurant and bar on the south side of the Public Square in the Arcade. Bix was a local ‘personality’ and a strong Band fan. Members of the Band who desired to stay up late following rehearsals continued to meet at Bix’s, until the restaurant closed following Bix’s death, then moved to Applebee’s Restaurant, where they still can be found after rehearsals and performances.
The Band was growing more into an ensemble where people came to play their instruments, improve the quality of the performance, and go home, rather than a social group. It should also be said that from time to time a small number of members of the Band found that taking the time to ‘rehearse’ selections was not to their liking. The general feeling amongst the majority of the band was that this improvement was something that they desired and the Band did lose a small minority of its players. Some new members found that their musical ability was simply not up to the level of expectation or general playing level of the ensemble. While this was often frustrating for Band members, new members, and Neiman, it was a sign that the level of playing and the demand for a more musical environment was taking the place over a social organization. New players would ‘try out’ the band and see if they liked the atmosphere, direction, and music. Many stayed, some left. This was a new era.
Marcus Neiman (pictured at right) made the decision to resign from his position as director of bands for the Medina High School to accept the position of fine arts consultant for the Medina County Schools Board of Education (now called the Medina County Schools Educational Service Center) in the Spring of 1980. His new position would permit him to supervise arts (visual arts and music) teachers and county fine arts programs in the four local school districts (Black River, Buckeye, Cloverleaf, and Highland) and serve as a consultant, when needed, to the three city school districts (Brunswick, Medina, and Wadsworth). Neiman made the decision to continue to conduct the community band, thus being the first conductor of the Band since the early 1940s who was not employed as a band director for the Medina City Schools. MCB did continue to rehearse in the high school band room during this period.
Members of MCB also joined with Medina Show Biz Company (one of the county’s community drama organizations) to participate in the pit orchestra for the musical Plain and Fancy, which was staged in the Medina County Administration Building auditorium in 1983. Neiman conducted the pit orchestra. In 1984, MCB band members, under Neiman’s baton, joined with The Brunswick Entertainment Company in the pit for the musical Anything Goes. They were again in the pit for Brunswick Entertainment Company in 1985, with Neiman conducting, for the musical Pajama Game. In 1987, Neiman and members of MCB again served as the bit orchestra for another musical, this time Camelot, sponsored by the Medina County Arts Council. Neiman served as co-producer as well as conductor of the pit orchestra.
Unfortunately, deaths have happened to MCB members before they retired from the Band’s ranks. Avery Clapp, bassoon player for seven years, died at age 77 during the 1990 season. Avery’s son Alvin Clapp, played bass clarinet in the ensemble and continues to this day. Eugene “Gene” Wind, Sr., a trumpet player from Wadsworth played with the band for ten years, died in an industrial accident after the 1993 season.
Neiman had met Wind at high school band activities at Highland High School, where Wind was a band booster and later band booster president. Their friendship and mutual love for bands and band music encouraged Neiman to extend an invitation to Wind to join MCB, which he did. Following Wind’s death, the decision was made to honor his memory with the commissioning of a composition for band. A donation of funds from the family actually made possible two pieces to be composed.
The decision was made to present the first commission to Cincinnati, Ohio, composer David Shaffer (pictured at left). Shaffer accepted the commission and composed a piece that would feature trumpet (which Gene played) and had some sort of connection to boating (a pastime that the Wind family enjoyed). The Band, Neiman, and Wind were practical jokers at heart. Several of Wind’s boating friends and Neiman made the suggestion that the title for the commissioned piece be “Passed Wind,” a title that they knew would find favor in Wind’s heart. They were outvoted by more conservative members of the ensemble for a more “appropriate” title of Windward Passage. The composition was first performed on a Friday evening in June 1995 on the Square with Medina Community Band playing. Unfortunately, just prior to the premiere performance the skies opened with a summer storm. The Band and Shaffer decided to “go forward” with the playing anyway. Gene Wind would have been very pleased. Windward Passage remains on the Barnhouse Publication list and is selling well.
The second composition, one more contemporary in nature, was deemed to be a trumpet concerto in Gene’s honor. Douglas Court (pictured at right), from the James Curnow Publishing Company, composed Rhapsody for Trumpet and Band, which was premiered in 1997 with Marcia Nelson Kline as soloist. Douglas Court has written exclusively for Curnow Music since 1994. Doug is a native of Toronto, Canada and received his early musical training in The Salvation Army. His formal training was received at the University of Toronto where he studied trumpet and graduated with a Bachelor of Music Education degree. Doug has also studied composition at the University of South Florida. While living in Toronto, Doug worked as a freelance trumpet player performing with groups such as the Canadian Opera Company orchestra.
In 1980, MCB expanded its horizons to include another of the long-forgotten activities of Medina Bands of the early part of the last century (e.g., playing concerts outside the City of Medina). The first of these was at Ashland’s Brookside Myers Band Shell in 1980 on a Thursday evening, at which the Band played essentially the same concert that would be played the following evening in Medina. The crowd was large, the sound system wonderful, and the on-site sponsorship warm and responsive to all the needs of the band. The only uncooperative element was the weather. A huge thunderstorm broke just about the time the band was to begin playing. Neiman invited the dwindling audience to join the band under the overhang of the shell and the concert continued. The Bandstand promoters invited MCB back again for concerts the next two years. The final concert of the series was again rained-out. MCB returned for a series of yearly concerts from 1992-1994, at which time the City of Ashland organized their own community band under the leadership of Lenard Salvo, who played with Medina Community Band for several seasons. Salvo was, at that time, and continues to be the director of bands at Ashland University.
The Band had not taken trips outside Medina to perform with other bands in many years. The first such was the Wayne County Schools’ Honors High School Band at Triway High School in January of 1983. Neiman had been selected to serve as guest conductor for the Wayne County Schools High School Honors Band and the decision was made to have Medina Community Band share the program.
In March of 1985, MCB performed in a concert with the Lakeland Civic Band (Charles Frank, conductor), at which host band and the Madison Concert Band also played. This was repeated the next year as well. After a few years off, the Lakeland Band and MCB played one more time, this in 1990.
One enterprise totally new to any Medina Band was started in 1984. On Wednesday evenings during the summer, instead of rehearsing at Medina High School for the program scheduled for the upcoming Friday evening concert, the Band played in Sharon Center (1984-86); Lodi (1986-90 – as part of their annual “Corn Festival”); Westfield Center (1984-91); Wadsworth (1986-89, and 91-92); Crestview Nursing Home (1986-88); Medina County Home (1988); and, at the home of Ruth Olenslager, a long-time benefactress of Medina County (1988-90). These outings were very much like the serenades that the Medina Cornet Band played in the 19th century. These concerts took place on Wednesday evening rehearsal nights. They were not surprisingly dubbed ‘rehearsal concerts’ by the Band. Since it would seem unseemly to stop playing a piece to work out some kinks in front of the audiences ranging in size from 50 to 200 which had been promised a “real” concert by the sponsorship, they were not all that much help as rehearsals.
By 1993, the Band had decided to cease this activity, forgoing the income in order to improve their Friday evening performances in Medina. Aside from the small turn-out of audiences, there were other challenges. At the 1991 Corn Festival appearance in Lodi, Neiman was confronted by an irate member of the “committee” who was extremely displeased that the Band would play “only an hour” concert. When she was told that the Band performed only an hour in Medina’s Square on Friday evenings, she was not impressed and indicated that they “expected more.” The reader will note that the 1991 concert was the last performed in Lodi.
Even after the ‘rehearsal’ concerts were abandoned, this incarnation of a Medina adult Band played more out-of-town concerts per year than in most of the history of the Band, with considerably more continuity than before. For example, the Band played at Seville (1991) at its 175thanniversary celebration, at Hale Farm and Village (1991-92) during their “Old Time Music Festival” in July, and at the Remson Church (Hinckley) in 1992 for their 100th anniversary.
Neiman’s rationale for these “run-out” concerts was to not only help grow the interest for MCB concerts in Medina, but also to attract more adult musicians to play with MCB. Essentially, this worked and the ranks of the Band continue to grow as did the number of “out-of-town” concert attendees.
Winter concert scheduling continued in 1985 when the Band was invited to play at the Medina Achievement Center’s mid-December Christmas program on a Sunday afternoon at their facility. That was a bit of a rush, after only a month of rehearsals; but, the Band did play for about 45-minutes. MCB repeated their visit with a performance in 1986, with a little more practice time. Between these two concerts was another non-summer concert, this one at Highland High School in February of 1986. Annual Winter concerts were held in the Medina County Administration Building Auditorium from 1987-1996, with a pre-Christmas (Holiday) concert added annual beginning in 1993.
The county administration building, formerly one of the “old Medina High Schools,” was in terrible disrepair for most of the MCB use. While operated by the county commissioners, the hall was used primarily as a meeting room, site for election returns, and as a basketball court. Lighting was not conducive to performances by any sort of large musical ensemble, the heating system was noisy (often banging out unrelated rhythms during concerts) and there was no air conditioning, which was a major factor for having no early Fall or Spring concerts in the hall. Yet, the Band considered it “their” hall and the county commissioners allowed the Band to use the hall without charge, since the Band was a community organization.
MCB inaugurated a unique tradition of “Tribute to Sousa” concerts in November 1986. Neiman wore a full-Sousa style uniform for this and all subsequent ‘Sousa’ concerts. “Ziggy” Coyle, owner of Coyle Music in Columbus (pictured in picture at left, third from left) who, with Paul Bierley (of Westerville), started a national petition drive to encourage the United States Congress to adopt the “Stars and Stripes Forever” as the national march of the United States. Band directors across the nation were encouraged to have concerts in the style of Sousa and encourage people to sign petitions for the national march. Neiman and MCB were joined by Dr. Paul Droste, (second from left) who had performed many times with MCB, and was then the director of the famed Ohio State University Marching Band, as guest euphonium soloist with the band. Senior Vice-President of Old Phoenix National Bank Jeff Kehnle (fourth from left in picture) and husband of MCB saxophone player Jackie, narrated the concert.
Several new, out-of-town concert series were begun in the 1990s. Among those were a January concert in Bay Village High School and Westlake High School (alternating between the two) from 1990-1996). This series was finally terminated after a 1994 concert and two attempts to play the 1996 concert were defeated by snow storms.
The ensemble (Neiman conducts Band at left) has been traveling annually to the EHOVE (the acronym for Erie Huron Ottawa Vocational Education) Career Center in Milan (OH) since 1991 to present concerts in the style of John Philip Sousa. The yearly concert usually takes place in late April on Sunday at 2p and the Band is treated to a capacity crowd each year. The following week on Wednesday the ensemble gives the same concert in the style of Sousa in Medina.
In addition, Neiman believed that taking the Band on the road the week prior to the Medina tribute to Sousa concert seemed to have a positive impact not only on the Band’s playing, but also personnel self-esteem.
Harkening back to the ‘good old days,” the MCB played a few times for community groups late in this era, as did their predecessor of 60-137 years ago. The Band played an outside concert in August of 1993 as part of the Medina County Fair. Later in the year, a portion of the Band played there prior to the November election (inside the community center on the Fairgrounds) as a prelude to a public meeting dealing with school funding.
Marcus Collins (pictured at left), a cornet player in the MCB since 1976, is a throwback to the early days of Medina Bands. In those days, there were no school instrumental music programs to teach students how to play musical instruments. If a person wanted to play in the Medina Cornet Band, he had to learn on his own, or at best, with help from the band director. Collins, never involved in music while growing up in Detroit, but coming to Ohio and listening to the MCB play, decided to learn to play the cornet so he could be part of the band. Over the years, there have been others who have joined the band is adult beginners and others who played other instruments while in school learning new instruments to join MCB.
To counteract noise from the large trucks rumbling through the Square, the MCBA continually updated and expanded the capabilities of a public address system to insure that concert audiences could hear not only the soloists, but also the Band itself. Mainly due to these improvements, the MCB members can look out over a park more than half-filled (as in picture at right) with an audience comfortably seated in their own chairs or on blankets. That’s a far cry from the ‘good old days’ when the audience stood around the bandstand so as to get within hearing distance of the Band.
As in pre-1937 Medina Bands, some of the members of the group have written music dedicated to or at least played by the Band. Trombonist Curt Leibert wrote the march El Marzo, which was first performed by MCB in July of 1978. Rodney Hannah (pictured at left), MCB cornet-cum-trombone player, wrote a march, The Torch, which was given its premiere performance in July 1989 and has been performed several times since.
Another composer and member of the band (1986-88, 1996) was Robert Feldbush (pictured at right), director of the Cuyahoga Falls High School Marching Band and Goldtones Stage Band. He wrote Man of Medina, commissioned by MCB and dedicated to Neiman. The piece had its ‘World Premiere’ performance at the Friday evening Band concert on June 4, 1983. He arranged for concert band the Theme of the Old Phoenix National Bank March to be performed by the MCB July 30th that year as part of the Bank’s 125th anniversary, complete with anniversary cake. In addition, he wrote a piece, Children’s Hour, commissioned by MCB and Neiman, with its world premiere on June 17, 1983 in the Uptown Park Gazebo. He dedicated another march to the MCB and Neiman in 1986, The Gazebo march, premiered on the Gazebo in June of 1986. In addition, he arranged numerous pieces for solo instrument or voice that have been performed by the Band.
The MCB has had a special relationship with nationally known composer Edmund J. Siennicki (pictured at left), of Sharon Center. Not only has Siennicki played bassoon in the Band for the better part of the last 17 years, but over time the Band has played some of his music dedicated to the MCB, the Medina County Schools Fair Honors Bands, or to Medina County citizens. Specifically for MCB, Siennicki wrote or arranged the following: Patty-Cake for Band (1984) played in manuscript and later published with Shawnee Press, commissioned by Medina Community Band; Reflections(1994) in memory of Gene Wind Sr, and played first by MCB in February of 1994. In addition, the band has done numerous arrangements by Siennicki including the Pavane for a Dead Princess by Maurice Ravel, which Siennicki arranged for solo horn and band. Siennicki has also used MCB to record numerous of his pieces for submission to his publishers and has been a long-time financial sponsor of MCB.
Corwin H. Taylor, originally from Germantown, Ohio, and finally of Annapolis, Maryland, and whom Neiman met while Neiman was the editor for the Ohio Music Education Association’s (OMEA) professional journal TRIAD wrote articles for TRIAD and carried on a long-time correspondence with Neiman. Taylor dedicated his march Medina to Neiman, which the Band gave its world premiere at Highland High School in March 1991.
Another long-time friend of both Neiman and MCB was, now deceased, Stuart J. Ling (pictured at right in his College of Wooster band director’s tartan coat). Ling and Neiman both served OMEA in a variety of capacities over the years, including both being state president of the association. Ling provided MCB with a number of his pieces to perform over the year and appeared as a guest conductor many times.
Many instrumental soloists have appeared with MCB over the years. Unlike many community bands in the area (state or nation), MCB has depended primarily on members from its own ranks to appear as instrumental soloists. Having been blessed with outstanding musicians, Neiman’s belief was to afford them the opportunity to play in front of the band and before our audiences rather than bringing in someone who plays well, but is not known in the community.
An article in the Medina County Gazette on Thursday, December 11th, 1986, indicated that 770 tickets for the annual “Tribute to Sousa” concert disappeared in 48 hours. That same article indicated that of the 60 members of the band, many come from Stark, Summit, and Cuyahoga counties as well as Medina County. Old Phoenix National Bank was staunchly behind MCB and often provided a full-page advertisement for the Band in the Medina Gazette. This was usually accomplished through the loan of a house advertisement (since the bank purchased a large block of space in the Gazette, it was willing to give one or more day’s space to MCB as a donation). And, they often served as an outlet for “complimentary” tickets to indoor concerts.
Likewise, the advertising section of the Medina County Gazette often gave freely of space on a weekly basis to the band. Neiman wrote the articles and they were often run “as is” in the arts and entertainment section of the paper. This was more or less the case during much of this era and extremely helped bring large audiences, often well over 2,000 per concert to the Square in Medina.
The quality of the band’s playing also increased. Of the 50 to 60 members playing on a regular basis, about 75 to 80 percent were adults. Instrumentation was very good with no real challenges in any section, which is unusual for any community band.
Communication with the Band was always somewhat a concern. Reminding members which music would be rehearsed or performed, schedule for upcoming events, and other various information was provided to members in the form of a “newsletter.” During the 1990 season, Neiman and euphonium player Jan Van Doren constructed and distributed the first newsletter for the band. This newsletter come out on a monthly basis and was distributed in hard copy form.
In late 1993 and early 1994, Medina County Commissioners announced that they desired to transform the Medina County Administration Building Auditorium (144 North Broadway Street, Medina) into office space. At this time, the hall represented the only community (or civic) hall in the Medina suitable for large groups to meet and for performing arts groups to perform. Following the November 1993 election returns, which were given in the auditorium at the County Administration Building, Neiman, Dr. DeLorre Haddad, a local developer (former dentist and former band parent of students who were in Neiman’s band at Medina), Library director Bob Smith, and local developer Michael Rose, discussed the commissioners comments and decided to back a concentrated effort to not only save the space, but also seek funds to remodel and upgrade the space.
To accomplish those ends, a performing arts foundation (Medina County Performing Arts Foundation) was incorporated and governmental support was secured from the state government budget with the help of legislative lobbyist William Blair III (from Canton) and Ohio Senator Grace Drake. Letters of support were secured from numerous individuals in the community to convince the commissioners to allow the hall to be saved. To those ends, new curtains, lighting, sound equipment, chair coverings, and off-stage dressing and restroom space were included in the successful restoration of the hall. The hall still lacked adequate heating and air conditioning; however, it was a great improvement over the space that was basically a gym stage with basketball hoops on either side.
The management of the hall during this era bounced back and forth between the Medina County Commissioners and Medina County Performing Arts Foundation. This also made booking, cleaning, and responsibility for help with sound technicians a continuing challenge.
During this era, the band was fortunate enough to have had Dr. Paul Droste (pictured at left), then director of the famed Ohio State University Marching Band appear as both a euphonium soloist and guest conductor. Droste is a native of Fairview Park, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, where he received his early musical training. He holds a bachelor of science degree in music education from The Ohio State University (OSU), a master of music degree from The Eastman School of Music and a doctor of musical arts degree (in euphonium performance) from The University of Arizona. Before joining the OSU School of Music faculty in 1966, he taught in the Pickerington and Lakewood Public Schools. He served as director of the OSU Marching Band from 1970 through 1983 and was the first former member of the band to be selected as its director. Dr. Droste retired from OSU in 1992 and worked as educational director of Colonial Music for the next ten years. Dr. Droste is the founder and director of the Brass Band of Columbus, a British-style brass band that has won nine international competitions. It should be noted that Dr. Droste, though not a regular member of any of the Medina Bands performed on a regular basis with them, not only while in high school, but a of number times thereafter.
Mary Ann Grof-Neiman, (pictured at right) clarinet soloist, has been with MCB since 1988, is currently the program administrator at the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Preparatory and Continuing Education Division. She received her bachelor of science in music education degree from the Bowling Green State University. Ms. Grof-Neiman has served as clarinetist for the Blossom Festival Band, Lakeland Civic Band, Lakeside Symphony Orchestra, Youngstown Symphony, Erie Philharmonic, and currently performs with the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra, Lakewood "Home Town" Band, Medina Community Band, and is solo clarinetist with the Sounds of Sousa Band. She maintains private studios at Baldwin Wallace College through their Conservatory Outreach Program as well as her home in Medina. She has served the Ohio Music Education Association as a Woodwind Adjudicator for the last 15 years and is a member of AFM Local 24. She is the wife of conductor Marcus Neiman and co-librarian for MCB.
Marcia Nelson-Kline, (pictured at left) cornet soloist, who has been a member of MCB since 1984, has appeared as featured guest cornet soloist on many concerts and on almost every July 4th concert since she joined the Band. She began her trumpet studies with her parents, Milton and Sarah Nelson, and the late Lloyd Haines (all retired Akron Symphony Orchestra members). These teachers instilled an appreciation and love for traditional cornet solos in her. She is solo cornet with Medina Community Band and Sounds of Sousa Band and performs with the Brass Band of the Western Reserve. Both Marcia’s mother and father have played in the community band over the years, and her mother continues to join
Marsha in MCB. Milt Nelson passed away on Friday, October 11th, 2008. The family asked that contributions in his name be given to Medina Community Band.
Kay S. Raplenovich (pictured at right), soprano vocalist, first soloed with MCB in 1992 and for over a decade was a main-stay of summer concerts, has soloed with The Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Opera on Tour, Opera Charleston (South Carolina), Whitewater Opera (Indiana), Lirico Sperimentale, (Spoleto, Italy) and other regional U.S. symphony orchestras and opera companies. She has performed solo recitals in the Midwest, the Eastern U.S., Russia and Slovenia. For Slovene audiences she has created classical sacred recitals with flutist Armando Mariutti as well as American Cabaret [a recital of American art songs, arias, Broadway tunes and spirituals] and A Slave’s Voice [an introduction to the life and music of the American slave performed with the writings of slave Charles Ball, PowerPoint of slave photos and the music of spirituals]. Kay is a Touring Artist and an Artist in Education with the Ohio Arts Council and has been trained as an Ohio teaching artist by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. She has guided thousands of student in creating and producing their own operas, plays, and vignettes as well as teaching classroom teachers how to integrate the ARTS in their curriculum. Currently Kay is teaching private voice lessons, and directing choirs in Nova Gorica, Slovenia. She has been a teacher of classical singing at Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland University and in the private studio at Thistlefink Gardens. Her students have progressed to major universities to study classical voice and many are currently having
With the advent of weekly programs, the Medina Community Band Association (MCBA) and Neiman felt that solicitation of those who attended concerts would be an ideal means of supporting the continued financial growth of the Band. A simple address tear-out was incorporated into the program with the request that it be mailed to the MCBA post office box. In addition to receiving notification of the season concerts, fans were encouraged to help sponsor the Band’s season. Contributions received by May 24th of each year were recognized beginning with the June summer program. Contributions between May 25th and June 28th of each year were recognized beginning with the July summer program.
A new program cover had been incorporated into the program (pictured at left). Cartoonist Tom Batiuk, who resides in Medina and has been a long-time friend of Neiman and the band, consented to craft a cover for the summer band programs in 1998. Batiuk had used the gazebo, the summer concerts, and even Neiman from time to time in his syndicated comic stripsFunky Winkerbean and Crankshaft. World famous band director Harry L. Dinkle gave his summer band concerts in the gazebo as well as Neiman conducting MCB concerts. Fortunately, the band concerts were not on the same night! A new cover was crafted for the 150th celebration season as well. It will begin to appear on the first concert of the 2009 summer season (pictured at right).
Donation levels are: program sponsorship (four who divided the cost of the year’s program printing); corporate sponsors ($250 and up) with five listed in the 2008 summer program; diamond patrons ($100 to $249) with 27 listed in the 2008 summer program; gold patrons ($50 to $99) with 52 listed in the 2008 summer program; silver patrons ($25 to $49) with 86 listed in the 2008 summer program; and, bronze patrons ($1 to $24) with 23 listed in the 2008 summer program. Despite fluctuations in the economy, the patron list continued to grow through this era.
There were 51 patrons by the end of 1975 season for the Band. That number grew to 160 by the 1995 season, and 197 by the 2008 season. In addition, bequests and special recognitions were becoming popular with band patrons. A growing number of the Band’s fans desired to recognize loved ones or achievements of family and friends through a contribution (or contributions) to the Band. Those donations were either restricted (to be used for a specific purpose) or unrestricted (to be used for anything the MCBA treasurer deemed appropriate). And, a growing number of Band members were contributing to the Band. Indeed, the Band had come a long way from the years when the members would not play unless they were paid, to a volunteer ensemble who not only gave freely of their time, but also gave financially to the general operating support of the ensemble.
Little has really been written about the Medina Community Band Association (MCBA) other than their sponsorship of the Band. This group has been the moral and financial supporter of the Band and deserves far more credit than they receive. They take time to meet throughout the entire year to plan for ice cream social hosts, equipment storage and maintenance for band equipment, funding and promoting the Band’s efforts, and securing and contracting for the yearly performances and hall rentals.
During this era, MCBA was headed by Donald Moore (pictured at left) as president, through the spring of 2008 whenTom Borror assumed the presidency. Karin Blazer serves as secretary, John and Jan Oberholtzer as treasurers, and Charles Freeman, Roy Lehman, and Don Moore as the board of directors, Neiman and Gail Sigmundrepresent the Band.
The instrumentation of the Band also continues to change. Concerts during this era reflected the continued desire by the Band and Neiman to present concerts during the Fall, Winter, and Spring, as well as summer. Indoor concerts could include the entire band instruments that reflected the different colors available to large concert bands. By the 2008 season, the band boasted: 9 flutes (most of whom owned and played piccolo); 2 oboes (one of whom also owned and played English horn); 5 bassoons (one of whom owned and played a contrabass bassoon); 1 e-flat soprano clarinet; 18 b-flat soprano clarinets; 4 b-flat bass clarinets; 1 b-flat contrabass clarinet; 1 e-flat soprano saxophone; 4 e-flat alto saxophones; 2 b-flat tenor saxophones; 1 baritone saxophone; 5 horns; 13 cornets; 3 trumpets; 9 trombones; 6 euphoniums; 7 tubas; and, 4 percussion. Of the 95 individuals on the 2009 roster, about 10 missed the first two months of the year due to being involved either as directors or players in high school marching bands; another 10 were away at college and usually returned in May for the late spring and summer seasons.
Of the 76 remaining on the active roster, it was not unusual to have as many as 10 to 15 people missing any rehearsal due to work, family responsibilities, vacations, or illness. Band members attendance was considered about average with other community bands in the area.
In 1995, the MCB began an exchange program with the Kent Stark Concert Band in which one year the two bands each played half a concert in Medina and the next year played in the Stark campus concert hall. Their director, Dr. Patricia Grutzmacher (pictured at right), is director of instrumental music, Kent State University, Stark Campus. She and Neiman were undergraduate students together for four years at The University of Akron.
Activity type and frequency remained moderately constant from 1997 to 2009. One annual concert series was discontinued. The home and home joint concert with the Kent Stark Concert Band was ended at Dalton High School in March, 1998. After the first two years of this series, there seemed to be little interest among audiences at either venue.
Neiman was elected by the Ohio Music Education Association membership to serve as state president. The office included two years, beginning July 1, 1996 through June 30, 1998, as president-elect; two years as state president, from July 1, 1998 through June 30th, 2000; and, July 1, 2000 through June 30, 2002, as state immediate past president. Demands of the office were felt by the band, but fortunately, band directors who were members of the Band (like Ed Lichtenberg, Vicki Smith, Amy McArtor, and Gail Sigmund) stepped up to the podium to conduct. Jan Van Doren also assisted with the Medina Community Band Association and with numerous demands from that organization.
The John Philip Sousa Foundation annually recognizes community concert bands “of outstanding musical excellence” with the Sudler Silver Scroll Award, as well as an Historic Community Band Award (pictured above at County Administration Building auditorium). Each applicant for these awards must complete comprehensive files according to the award requirements. Included are bios of the current conductor, the MCB history, a compact disc recording of a live concert (February 23rd, 2000), letters of commendation from the music community and local Medinians, and a photo of the band (shown above), which was taken on stage in the Medina County Administration building. Mary K. Hanes and Jan Van Doren devoted long hours to obtaining and presenting the materials in a large loose-leaf notebook (now housed in the Medina County Historical Society collection) - to no avail. One of the awards that year went to the Allentown Community Band, which now consists primarily of professional musicians and has been around since 1828.
During the summer of 2001 Dr. Robert Bayless (pictured at right), former Wooster High School (OH) band director, gave Neiman a library of music containing over 1500 pieces of music, 1000 or so being complete and not duplicates of music already available to the MCB. The collection belonged both to Robert Bayless and his father A. Jerd Bayless, former director of bands at Canton Lincoln High School (OH). Many of the older titles were passed down from father to son over the years. Robert was moving to Arizona to accept a teaching position at the college level and did not want to pay the expense of moving four large four-drawer filing cabinets that housed the music. The collection was given to someone who was (1) conducting bands currently; (2) performing music of that style for their audiences; and, (3) would perform the music. Marcus and the MCB certainly qualified on all counts.
Neiman and Jan Van Doren are currently in the process of scanning not only the music that Bayless provided, but also many of the out-of-print marches in the library to disk as Adobe files.
It was not uncommon for Neiman to receive calls and or visits from local residents who wanted the Band to have music that had been stored away in attics, garages, or basements. Most often the music was turn of the century piano sheet music, but sometimes, it was actual band arrangements that could be added to the collection. Neiman and North Royalton Community Band director Bill Park (pictured at left) also began to exchange music that was in the public domain. In 2007, Park opened The Band Music PDF Project with a few volunteers to move the project forward. To date, over 300 pieces of music are on the site and can be downloaded for use by bands at no cost. Large collections of music were provided by the family of Vaclav Klimek, Dana M. Bailey, Chester Nettower, and others for the Project. This new source provided Neiman with a huge collection of marches from 1880 to 1930 that were still appropriate for performance by MCB and previously unavailable for use. And, it saved the MCBA hundreds of dollars in music costs since the music was in the public domain and could be copied and shared without cost or infringement to copyright laws. Park also appeared a number of times as a guest conductor with MCB while Neiman guest conducted for Park’s North Royalton Community Band Reading Sessions and at rehearsals for Park.
The Band was invited to perform at several new venues. The first was at the invitation of Dr. Howard Meeker(pictured at right), conductor of the Cleveland State University Wind Ensemble. Each year Dr. Meeker invites a community band from northern Ohio to perform a joint concert with his Wind Ensemble to show his students and others that there is band life after college. The concert was in October, 2001 in the Waetjen Auditorium on their campus.
Meeker appeared with MCB a number of times in the years to come as a guest conductor during inside concerts and as a guest conductor on the summer concert series in the gazebo. Meeker was also instrumental in making the connections that allowed Neiman to make his historic trip to Moscow and Saratov, Russia in 2004.
A Veterans Concert, in conjunction with the City of Medina, St. Francis Xavier Church (2002 concert picture at left), and The First Christian Church of Medina, and Medina Community, was started following the tragic September 11th, 2001 attack on the United States. The concert took place the Monday of Veterans Day. The format of this concert took a much different approach than any past Band concert. Various secular and sacred speakers presented short narrations and/or reflections between selections. The hour concert has grown from an audience of about 50 to close to 200 at present.
A holiday concert in mid-December became a tradition during this era. Seasonal selections were offered to the community with occasional vocal and/or instrumental soloists.
Another relationship that formed during this era was with Dr. Gary Ciepluch and the Case Western Reserve University Bands. The first of the series was a joint concert with Medina High School, Ciepluch’s Cleveland Youth Symphony (Bands), and MCB, at Medina High Schools’ Performing Arts Center in the spring of 2001. Later were two concerts at Severance Music Hall in Cleveland with the Case Western Reserve University Bands: the first on October 22nd, 2002 (pictured at right), and most recently on October 14th, 2007.
The Severance Music Hall appearances, more than any other experience for the Band, clarified not only their potential for musical growth, but also the future direction of the Band. While there were challenges with the Severance performances from a preparation and implementation standpoint, not to mention a financial standpoint, the appearances, none-the-less, provided the Band with musical direction. While playing in the gazebo on Medina’s Town Square presents an enormous gratification for those musicians (and their conductor), playing at Severance, where the famed Cleveland Orchestra inhabits the hallowed halls provided the Band with a sense of musical growth.
Knowing that all the greats in classical music (on both sides of the podium), past-present-future, have played on that stage, and experiencing the sights and sounds of the stage is an experience that can only happen to a select few. From a developmental standpoint, the preparation for the Severance concerts allowed Neiman to refine and polish the music to be performed as no other concert in his career with the Band had been prepared. For the Band, the stakes seemed higher and playing at Severance made the demands for perfection worth the end result. The ability level of the Band moved up two notches for each concert.
Members of the Band participated in a partnership with: Medina County Arts Groups (Medina County Schools, Medina County Performing Arts Foundation, Medina Show Biz Company, and Medina City Schools) in a summer production of “My Fair Lady” at the newly remodeled Medina High School in their Performing Arts Center complex during the summer of 2003. Neiman (pictured at left conducting a performance in the MHS PAC pit) was asked to be music director for the production and conduct the pit band. While performances (three weekends in August with three performances per weekend) did not conflict with the Friday evening Band concerts on the Square, the pressure of having every night rehearsals with the theatre partnership and community band, and a concert by the community band was a stretch for band members and conductor. In 2004, the cooperative moved some of their performances to Friday evenings during late July and members of the band made the decision that this was a conflict with the Band’s Friday evening concerts and chose not to play in the pit.
Beginning with the 2003 season, Neiman began to offer community non-profit organizations the opportunity to promote their cause by auctioning off “guest conducting” appearances with MCB. Hospice of Medina was one of the first and “guest conductors” have included: former state representative Charles Calvert (pictured at right); Akron attorney Michael Kaplan; and Medina County Judge James Kimbler.
Beginning with the 2004 season, Neiman began to offer the Medina Hospital the same offer of guest conducting. Dr. Warren Rose (of Medina General) in 2005 and Thomas Tabor in 2007 took advantage of the award.
Medina County Commissioner Patricia Geissman took the baton up in 2004’s July 4th concert for the Medina County Battered Women’s Shelter cause. Neiman and Geissman are pictured at left.
Other community groups who participated during this time period were Medina ShowBiz Company and the Medina Red Cross. Other politicians who have conducted the band were United States Senator Donald Pease (D-OH); United States House of Representative Ralph Regula (D-OH); current Ohio Representative William Batchelder, and current United States Senator Sherrod Brown (pictured at right).
In the early part of the 20th century, Medina merchants supported the Band because their weekend performances in the uptown park square improved customer traffic in stores near the park. It was fitting that a century later when over 300 people gathered at Medina’s Weymouth Country Club on Saturday, May 1st, 2004, for the eighth Hall of Fame Awards Dinner presented by the Medina Area Chamber of Commerce that the 2004 honorees included William Batchelder, Jr.; Scott Seymour Bennett; Edmund Henry Deibel; Charles E. Hawley; William H. Kelly; and, The Medina Community Band. The award stated that “Medina Community Band has become a well-respected musical group that contributes to Medina’s economy and represents a significant piece of Americana.” This was the first time that such an award was ever given to the Band. The recognition was in the form of “the Medina Area Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame Award, founded in 1979 to recognize the dedicated service of those whom the Chamber felt had provided outstanding service to the growth and progress of the business community, or had contributed to the socioeconomic base of the Medina area.”
An invitation of another sort was tendered to Neiman in 2004 (Mary Ann and Marcus Neiman visiting Red Square, Moscow, Russia, pictured at left). The music of John Philip Sousa echoed through the concert hall of the Conservatory of Music in Saratov Russia on Friday, October 15th as Marcus Neiman presented his first international concert, with the Volga Concert Band being the guinea pigs for the nearly three hour concert. Through the encouragement and assistance of long-time friend and colleague Howard Meeker (Cleveland State University), and Professor Anatoly Selianin (Conservatory of Music - Saratov Russia) - Marcus and Mary Ann received their invitation from the Russian Embassy for the trip to Russia. The concert was in Neiman's normal "Sousa-style". It featured a cornet soloist, cornet trio, euphonium soloist, soprano voice soloist, and a Dixieland band ensemble, as well as lots of encore marches by Sousa and Ohio composers Henry Fillmore and Karl L. King. Except for the venue and length of the concert, it might have been played in the Medina gazebo on a 4th of July.
In the spring of 2006, the Medina gazette ran its annual “best of” list and MCB was awarded the “Best Local Band” for the year. While the award didn’t have nearly the impact that the Chamber award had, it was well received by the community and the Band.
Another invitation, or at least a request for some mutual public relations, was from Cleveland television station FOX8. They had a daily hour-long show, That's Life, hosted by TV personality, Robin Swoboda,(pictured at left – center) who coincidently lived in Medina. Twenty or so MCB volunteers gathered in the uptown gazebo on a windy, cool, rainy morning of Tuesday, June 5th, 2007, to play bits and pieces of music for the television cameras. Pictured at right are Neiman, Swoboda, and vocalist Dan Doty. Neiman convinced Swoboda to conduct a march for the airing! Clips of video or sound were then inserted into Swoboda's interviews with downtown merchants and other folks, showing off some of what Medina offers. The program was aired at a later date.
The Medina County city of Wadsworth, harkening back a century or more, in 2007 began what was hoped to be an annual affair, theWadsworth Festival of Community Bands. A block-long section of a downtown street was cordoned off to vehicular traffic. A tent under which the bands played faced the street and audiences sat in the street, or in the shade of trees in a narrow park on the other side of the street. Instrumental clinics were held in the morning, and four community bands, including the MCB, played in the afternoon and early evening. It would have been interesting to have heard the bands of that bygone era- bands greatly reduced in size and without reed instruments.
William I. Bauer, director of the Wadsworth Community Band and his board of directors sponsored the first gathering of area community bands in over a century on July 7th, 2007, in Wadsworth. The “Festival of Community Bands” featured Medina Community Band (pictured at left), North Royalton Community Band (Bill Park, director), Wadsworth Community Band, Strongsville Community Band (Kenneth Mehalko, director) and Neiman’s Sounds of Sousa Band. Workshops and an “instrument petting zoo” were part of the day’s activities.
On September 23rd, 2007, MCB helped Old Phoenix National Bank (now a FirstMerit Bank) celebrate its 150th years of service to the community. The “party” was held in the gazebo with speeches by dignitaries from the Bank. MCB played a dedication concert to help celebrate the event and, as had been done for the Bank’s 125th birthday party, the Band played Robert Feldbush’s original composition Theme of the Old Phoenix National Bank march. The Bank contributed $1,000 to help offset the costs of MCBs upcoming Severance Music Hall performance.
Over time the MCB has recorded (at least) seven compact discs and two sessions on tape. The first tape was the sound track of a Sousa concert video in the Broadway Street hall in 1991. Next was a CD, “Sounds of Summer,” produced in 1994. The person who recorded the music, Dr. Lee Brooks, played a clarinet solo the following summer with the MCB. A tape recording in 1996 was the MCB portion of a joint concert with the Kent-Stark community band in 1996. The next was a holiday concert CD in December, 1999, followed by a Sousa concert in 2000, another in 2002, and another in 2004 from a concert on February 4th of that year. The last two were CDs produced during the Band's two appearances at Severance Hall. All, but the 2004 concert, have been combined into one disc in MP3 format which resides in the Medina County Historical Society collection of MCB materials.
The Public Square was closed from August 2006 through May 2007 for replacement of electric and water service for the square as well as remodeling a repair to the gazebo. By June 1st, all was complete and the Band took part in a rededication of the entire square that evening.
On January 4, 2008, the Band was invited to play for the departure of the Ohio National Guard, “Call to Duty” of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team who were preparing to leave for Iraq. The departure was from the Medina High School Performing Arts Center. The departure was from the Medina High School Performing Arts Center. This was the first time in over a century that the Band had played for any type of military exercise. While the appearance was voluntary on the part of the Band members, a full ensemble was recruited in less than six hours. SFC NGOH Greg Habrat, a former high school band member under Neiman baton at Medina High School was one of the coordinators for the event and helped secure MCB for the engagement (Neiman and Habrat are picture at right).
Of the approximate 76 members who were active in October of 2008: 30 were from Medina; 12 were from Wadsworth; 6 were from each Akron and Hinckley; 5 were from each Brunswick and North Royalton; 4 were from Copley; 2 were from each Cleveland, Cuyahoga Falls, Lodi, Strongsville, Valley City, and Wooster; with 1 player from each Bedford, Berea, Doylestown, Elyria, Fairlawn, Grafton, Homerville, Middleburg Heights, Norton, Rootstown, Spencer, Seville, Twinsburg, and Westfield Center. Thus, the majority of the members clearly still come from Medina. Of that 76, 61 (80%) come from Medina County and 15 (20%) come from outside Medina County. Of that 76, 19 members (25%) are either high school or college students.
Duration of musician membership and their residence location have also changed for MCB. When the Band was composed mostly of high school students, membership duration was no more than three years or so. The 1995-96 members averaged 7 1/2 years, with a range of one to 38 years. Before 1900 most of the Medina Band personnel were from Medina Village. After 1900 and before W.W.II about half were from Medina Village and half from Medina County outside the village. For 25 years after W.W.II more than half were from Medina City.
Scheduling rehearsals at Medina High School (777 East Union Street) became a growing problem. During the late fall to early winter season, the Band would often be told a day before rehearsal that the room was needed by other Medina school groups and the Band would have to find another site to rehearse. While provisions were usually made for the Band to rehearse in the junior high band room (now Claggett Building – 420 East Union Street), in many cases, the word to “find another place” came too late to find other accommodations and rehearsal for that night were simply cancelled. The decision was made to move the operation to the Medina County Administration Building (144 North Broadway Street) using first the choral room (old high school band room) beginning in 1991. The county commissioners embraced the importance of the Band and did not charge them for use of that facility or the auditorium in the building for concerts. (Neiman conducting, Denise Milner Howell singing at a MCB rehearsal left).
In the fall of 2007, the rehearsal space both for rehearsals and concerts became a challenge at the County Administration Building as well. For the first time in the Band’s history, a committee of band members and members of MCBA was formed to explore possible sites for rehearsals and performances. It was decided that performances would be played in the old Medina High School auditorium, now called the “middle stage.” A contract with the Medina High School performing arts center for a charge per concert was entered beginning with the 2007-8 season. It was also decided that the band room at Highland High School (4150 Ridge Road, Medina) would be used for rehearsals. The facility at Highland was new, on a flat floor, acoustically treated, well lighted, had heating and air conditioning that was consistent, and the band directors there allowed the Band to use their chairs, music stands, and percussion equipment. It was agreed by the Band and Neiman that this facility was by far the best they had ever had and would contribute to the further benefit of the band.
The Band owned a small inventory of instruments and equipment (Bob Bux on bass drum, pictured at left). A concert bass drum (that was small enough to be used in the gazebo for summer concerts); snare drum, crash cymbal, four timpani, about 75 music stands (and storage carts), and about 75 chairs were owned by MCBA. In addition, MCBA owned about 500 music compositions in its music library. The music library, consisting of the Band’s music, music owned by Marcus Neiman, and Neiman’s professional concert band, Sounds of Sousa, had almost 5,000 titles making it one of the most comprehensive band libraries in the state.
The indoor concerts also allowed Neiman to program more literature from the classic standard band repertoire. While marches were always the staple for Band and audience, time constraints, instrumentation constraints, and rehearsal time during the summer simply did not permit playing music that adult musicians in a community band should play and present during their time in Band.
For the first time in the history of the Band a mission statement regarding the presentation of music in various venues by the Band was evolving and Neiman grappled with the implications of what it would mean for the Band. The Band was now rehearsing on a weekly basis from September through July, presenting three home concerts during the non-summer months, and performing every Friday evening during the months of June and July (weather permitting). In addition, there was an out-of-town run-out concert to Milan and other performances like Severance. More of the members of the Band were either professional studio musicians, music teachers (band directors or vocal-general music teachers), and otherwise talented musicians who had not only performed in outstanding high school ensembles, but also had performed with some of the nation’s finest college and university ensembles as well as professional ensembles. In short, the majority of the musicians were asking for more challenging music than what they played during the summer concerts. They wanted to be musically challenged. Yet it should also be noted that some of the musicians who did not want the pressure of preparing music to a higher level and desired a more social atmosphere, left the ensemble for other ensembles that better fit their musical and social needs.
It should also be noted that a number of the members of the Band were playing in other musical organizations as well. Band members were playing with the Brunswick Community Band, Litchfield Town Band, Wadsworth Community Band in Medina County, and the Goodyear Community Band (Akron), Strongsville Community Band, and others outside the county.
The community was growing. Despite the Friday evenings when the Rally in the Alley was in full swing and the community partnership (now called CAMEO) was giving Friday evening concerts, MCB concerts still managed to draw well over 1000 to 1500 people.
The selection of music for concert overtures, the staple of Saturday morning cartoons as well as concerts in Medina’s Public Square, were expanded to include music by von Suppé, Mendelssohn, Rossini, Holst, Offenbach, and Berlioz. All of these composers wrote music long before the era being covered; however, though some were played in prior years, due to the difficulty of the music, many were not really within the grasp of the Band until this era. And, while audiences absolutely love these wonderful gems, they cannot be prepared in one rehearsal. Rehearsal on overtures would now begin with a reading in September through October, then intensive rehearsal work followed the holiday concert. In addition to these Saturday morning gems, a lively dose of music played by Ohio composers Clare Grundman, Karl King, and others filled the beginning section of each concert.
Selection of instrument solos (Marcia Nelson, pictured on left), which had also been a staple of the Band’s concerts for years, was also evolving. Those same musicians who had performed in their high school and college ensembles needed to be challenged with performing in front of the Band and before an audience. While many of the musicians sitting at the top of their respective sections (e.g., first chair clarinet, first chair flute, or first chair cornet) had performed solos and ensembles from the repertoire for their respective instruments, not all of them had the opportunity to perform as a soloist in front of those bands. Neiman began to feature as many of the musicians from the band as possible. Each summer concert would, hopefully, feature at least one instrumental soloist and, again hopefully, at least one ensemble. The solo literature was more demanding on the soloist and the accompaniment for the Band was equally challenging.
Not all the soloists were serious about their music. Elyria resident and long-time member of MCB Kyle Snyder(pictured at right in costume), the resident wit of tuba section, often dressed the part of “Puff the Magic Dragon” for concerts. Kyle’s warmth and humor always made the children flock to the front of the gazebo to hear him play the magical solo. Kyle would be seen more frequently without the costume playing tuba in Dixieland ensembles featured by MCB.
Neiman also encouraged a number of the band directors (current and past) of school bands to serve as assistant conductors. Edward Lichtenberg (pictured at right), in addition to playing clarinet and alto saxophone solos with the band, often took the baton to rehearse the Band during Neiman’s absence. So did Vicki Smith (Copley High School band director), Amy McArtor (Wadsworth City Schools band director and pictured at left), and, Gail Sigmund (retired from the Cleveland Municipal Schools as a math teacher, with time served as a band director in the Brunswick City Schools).
Performing solos with any ensemble is like walking a tightrope for the ensemble, soloist, and conductor. The soloist must have faith that the Band will not cover the solo line and that the conductor will be able to know when to allow the soloist to come out and when the Band must shine. Neiman learned from his soloists and his soloists taught him and the Band what was needed to make the experience work. Over this era, the number of individuals from the Band performing solos increased and the depth and quality of literature performed improved. The more individuals performing solos and ensembles, the better the Band became.
During the greater history of the Band, vocal soloists were either high school students from Medina High School or adult community members. Some were professionally trained other were talented amateurs who simply enjoyed singing for the community with the Band. And, for the most part, the literature performed was written for band, rather for vocal soloist with band accompaniment. Neiman began to search out literature specifically written for solo voice with band accompaniment.
While music written for band, without vocal soloist, was still used, the band parts were often edited to insure that the solo voice was not being duplicated by band parts (and thus often covered). In addition, Neiman had special arrangements made by area composers, such asBob Feldbush (from Cuyahoga Falls and pictured at left), Percy Hall (from Mansfield and pictured at right), as well purchasing pieces for solo voice with band accompaniment music from the Leonard B. Smith catalogue (Detroit Concert Band).
During this era, there also were a number perennial favorites among the vocal soloists featured with the band. Kay Raplenovich, soprano (pictured at left) from Ashland is a professional opera singer who performed with the band for numerous seasons. She is now living in Jeruzalem, Slovenija with her husband.
Denise Milner Howell, mezzo-soprano (pictured at right), is a principal opera singer with Cleveland Opera and has performed with the Chautauqua Opera, Tanglewood Festival, Akron Symphony Orchestra, and Buffalo Philharmonic. She and her family reside in Wadsworth.
Tenor Daniel J. Doty (pictured at left) has appeared throughout the Midwest with orchestras and opera companies. A participant of the Opera and Music Theatre Festival of Lucca, Daniel spent six weeks in the Tuscan village of Lucca, Italy singing operatic arias at various venues associated with Lucca’s most famous son Giacomo Puccini. Daniel is a frequent soloist with the Akron Symphony Orchestra and has also appeared with symphonies in Muncie, IN, Urbana, IL, Marion, OH and community bands in Medina and Wadsworth. Currently Daniel serves as the Senior Minister of Trinity United Church of Christ in Wadsworth, Ohio.
Miki Saito, a coloratura soprano, has enjoyed living in Medina (Ohio) since the spring of 2002. Born and raised in Yokohama (Japan) she moved to the United States to study music and became an American citizen in 1997. Since her move to Ohio, she has appeared in eight productions with the Cleveland Opera Chorus, has toured the North East Ohio area with the Sounds of Sousa Band and has been a regular guest soloist of the Medina Community Band.
Continued from prior times are the 'ice cream socials' where various groups sell goodies before, during, and after the MCB summer concerts. Due to improved loudspeaker systems over the years, modern audiences can sit around the park and hear the band fairly well, unlike the 'good old days' when the audience stood around the bandstand so as to get within hearing distance of the band. The Friday evening concerts from the gazebo amid the delightful Victorian atmosphere in and surrounding the uptown park are a great piece of Americana.
Interestingly, the serious listeners usually sit front and center for the concerts on lawn chairs or the metal park benches; those who want to roam and or talk, or have young families usually bring blankets and sit either on the south side of the gazebo or immediately behind the band on the east side. Larger families with blankets and lawn chairs usually sit on the north or south side of the band. It’s not uncommon to see the same folks sitting in the same spot from week to week and many “stake out” their favorite spot as early as 6p on concert evenings. Likewise, when the weather becomes a bit “iffy,” it’s not unusual for the umbrellas to sprout. “What do you mean you’re going to cancel the concert,” is a common cry from these hardy fans even as the rain splashes down. They need their weekly fix of band music.
As the sound system grew in complexity to serve the Band, it became necessary to employ a sound technician. Scott Marabito, an employee at NASA in Cleveland, has been helping us get the sounds to the audience for years. Likewise, a crew has been employed to help set up the sound equipment, band chairs and stands on the gazebo each week. Members of MCBA usually sit on the north side of the gazebo folding programs, passing them out, and fielding all sorts of questions about the Band.
Another welcome addition has been the help from local resident Doug McClure (pictured at left) in presenting the colors at each summer community band concert. Doug commented: I started when I asked you if I could present the flag. I had been raising the flag (and still do) at the Medina home football games. It just seemed the thing to do. My father had raised the flag on the Square (between the cannon and the drinking fountain) for years, so I guess it was just a continuation of what he had done.
While everything all seems to fall into place, there are challenges. Truck traffic, that was an on-going noise problem for concert goers, seemed to be resolved by the addition of a weight scale that re-routed them away from the square. Beginning about 2003 or 2004, The Main Street Café on the west side of the Square began hosting weekly Rally in the Alley behind the restaurant. By the 2005 and 2006 seasons, the Rally in the Alley began on or before Memorial Day and continued through and beyond Labor Day in the fall. The rallies were on Friday evenings beginning at 4p and continuing until almost 11p. The Rallies featured rock music of the 1970 and beyond performed by live rock bands. Sound bleed became a problem as did motorcycles rumbling through the square. During the 2008 season, the gunning of engines became so bad that Neiman stopped a concert to “allow the cycles to pass through.” Letters to the Mayor, City Council, City Police, and meetings with community band and restaurant people are on-going at this time. Neiman and café owner Gary Quesada continue to meet to see how both events can co-exist. Quesada has worked to reduce noise and give the bands a break during the weekly concert hour and seek to find additional parking for cyclists who circle the square in search of a place to park.
Despite those challenges, the Band was moving forward during this era in other areas as well. There first was a phone tree, from Neiman to section leaders, to members of the Band, that got information out regarding rehearsals and performances. Getting information to the Band was addressed in 1990, in the form of a hard-copy newsletter distributed by Neiman and euphonium player Jan Van Doren (pictured at right). With the advent of quick and relatively effective electronic communication, Neiman began weekly electronic newsletters with the season opening for the 1990-91 season. To effectively get the email from Neiman to the Band, MCBA secured a subscription to PagePlop, Inc., a service that provides hosting for a Listserv. This effectively solved many of the challenges of getting band information to the members via email. Newsletters now go out every Sunday morning to the members of the band.
With the growth of Medina County, getting information about the concerts in the Medina Gazette grew increasingly difficult. What at one time had been complete coverage of every concert was now simply a listing, if that. Publicity in the Medina Sum and Medina Post (weekly newspapers) were better. The only real solution was to attempt to reach those individuals who had email addresses and wanted to become fans. Slowly building a “fan” email database, Neiman has grown the list to about 200. The mailing had to be delivered from Neiman’s Sounds of Sousa Band website since it had fan mailing capacity.
With the help of flute section leader Sue McLaughlin (pictured at right), Neiman continued to send media material to all print and as many electronic sources prior to each concert as possible.
Neiman and Band members had been talking about an MCB website and in 2000; Brenda Marshall agreed to be the webmaster. In her own words, Brenda commented: As near as I can figure it was in June of 2000 that the website was started. I was bored at home taking care of my mother and exploring the internet. I thought it would be interesting to start a website from one of the free hosting offerings. I had been taking photos of the band since I started (I come from a family of photo takers) and with programs, along with newsletters that was enough material to start. I chose the Microsoft site because I thought it would be around for awhile. Then I emailed you to check out the results. And that was the start.
MCB has no formal audition process whereby new members are “tested” to determine if they are able to successfully meet the musical challenges as members of the Band. Part of the curatorial mission of the Band was to accept those who desired membership in the Band. For the most part, individuals who joined the Band were old enough to know that they should be willing to attend rehearsals and “practice their music.” From a social standpoint, the chemistry of the Band under Neiman had been one of continued growth and support of those within the ensemble. Neiman selected experienced and compassionate individuals in each section to serve as “section leaders.” These individuals are responsible for: seating the section so that all parts would be heard (rather than seating sections from strongest to weakest); making sure that the section had the right music and were prepared to play in rehearsal and performance; and, helping make the determination of which players would play each of the summer season concerts (since only 45 players could play at any one time). In addition, the section leaders served as a quasi-band council to help make decisions on how the Band should be run. And, it worked!
Current section leaders (as of October 2008) are Sue McLaughlin (flutes); Cindy Ruhrkraut (double reeds); Bianca Murphy; Gail Sigmund (horn, pictured below left); Paul Rocco (cornet/trumpets); Rob Lichtenberg (trombones); Fran Hurlburt (euphoniums); Allan Kelley (tubas); and Chuck Stiver (percussion).
There are two ways that directors of the Band probably handled getting music to the Band to rehearse and perform and, following performance, getting the music back into some sort of storage for future use. In earlier times, the director probably handled the duties himself. Once the directorship moved to school directors, the duties of library were probably divided with or allocated to a student or other person designated as the “band librarian.” During the time Neiman was band director at Medina High School, the community band librarian was also the high school band librarian. Once Neiman became fine arts consultant, the duties of librarian were delegated to a member of the band. At present, there are two librarians (Mary Ann Grof-Neiman – pictured above right – and Gail Sigmund, pictured above left). With the band library residing in the Neiman household, access for both director and librarian was somewhat easier.
Because MCB performs eight to ten summer concerts, each concert has from 10 to 12 different musical selections (80 to 120 pieces of music). Taking into consideration the other concerts, another 20 to 30 pieces of music could be in the folders for a total of 100 to 150 arrangements. Working the math, with 80 folders for the band, the total number of individual pieces of music for the library staff to move from the filing cabinets to folders at the beginning of the season and then from folders back to the end of the season, is 8,000 to 12,000 pieces of music. Or, about five to ten feet of music! With the help of the library staff, and about ten volunteers, the entire process can be achieved in a couple of weeks.
To include more member involvement, Neiman put together a “music selection” committee to help recommend literature for the Band to perform during the 150th celebration season. Composed of former and current band directors, the group reviewed the literature that the Band had performed over the years and met at Neiman’s home to chart out the basic play lists for the season.
Those on the first committee, who met in August of 2008 were: Christopher Burdick (band director) Mary Ann Grof-Neiman (librarian);Lee Harper (trombone section); Ed Lichtenberg (clarinet section leaders); Gail Sigmund (librarian); Vicki Smith (band director); and,Neiman. This was the first time that any formalized music selection effort had been made and Neiman indicated that the group would assist with future season music selection.