By Louisa Danielson
“We always finish with Stars and Stripes Forever – it's just a Community Band tradition. I don't know if they'd let us off the stage if we didn't!” exclaimed Susan Jehl, associate conductor of the Fort Wayne Area Community Band.
The Fort Wayne Area Community Band is gearing up for their summer season of concerts. Each concert has a new repertoire list, with a different theme. On Tuesday, Jehl and Dave Blackwell, who is also an associate director of the Band, will be leading a concert titled “Side-By-Side.” The music for this concert ranges from selections of “The Music Man” to Kirby's “An American Fanfare.”
“We invite area high school students to sit with the Community Band,” Jehl explained. Students apply for a position via the online form that is on the Band's website. Sheet music is mailed to the students about three weeks before the event. There is one rehearsal the week prior to the concert.
Some of the students who come to play with the band are joining parents or grandparents who are currently band members. But Jehl said that the Band also hosts side-by-side concerts to help young musicians realize that there are opportunities for being in a musical group even after high school or college graduation. “There are community bands in cities across America. We hope they will join one and continue to make music,” Jehl explained.
Making music beyond the school environment is a thought that resonates with Jehl on a personal level. As a child, she “just really enjoyed going to and listening to music at concerts,” she explained. “When I was in third grade, I started the clarinet.”
By the time Jehl was in middle school, she was surprised to see a woman leading a band. “I didn't know (a woman) could be a band leader,” Jehl commented. This inspired her to enter the conducting field later in life.
In college, Jehl majored in music education at Ball State. She received both bachelor's and master's degrees.
“I joined the Community Band right out of college,” Jehl noted. She was glad to find a musical organization that would let her utilize her musical skills, which include playing the clarinet and saxophone, even though she was no longer a student.
Jehl has been a part of the Community Band since the first year it began. But she is also a teacher at Summit Middle School, where she teaches music classes.
As part of her teaching work, Jehl has used the “Fort Wayne Centennial March” – a piece that was written in 1895, just a year after Fort Wayne's 100th birthday.
Jehl found the music as a piano score. The previous owner of the music had donated it to the Fort Wayne History Center. Sensing that this would be a great teaching tool, Jehl had the piano score arranged for the middle school band that she leads at Summit. But, now that summer is here, she plans to use it as a repertoire piece for the Community Band. “I like to link up music and history,” she said.
Summer concerts with the Fort Wayne Area Community Band are held in the Foellinger Theater. “It's one of the best venues in the city,” Jehl said, enthusiastically. “… the band people just love it.”
Even when a thunderstorm hits, it does so with musical accuracy. “We've not ever cancelled,” Jehl stated, remembering one time that there was a thunder and lightning storm during a performance of the 1812 Overture. The thunder decided to rumble into action just as the canons – which are a part of the musical score – were supposed to thunder. “(It happened) just at the right time,” she noted.
Fortunately, the Foellinger Theatre has a roof, and no visitors or musicians will be soaked in the event of a rain shower. Band concerts happen on the second Tuesday of each month. Extra concerts are given during the Three Rivers Festival in downtown Fort Wayne.
In capping the purpose of the Community Band, Jehl surmised, “We're just really excited about making Community Band music available to everyone out there… hopefully, we'll have a full house!”
Fort Wayne Area Community Band
WHAT: The Fort Wayne Area Community Band Side-By-Side Concert
WHERE: Foellinger Theatre, 3411 Sherman Blvd. Fort Wayne, IN 46808
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
COST: No admission charged, donations welcome.
INFORMATION: http://www.fwacb.org/ click on the tab marked “concerts” or “contact”