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City band’s weekly concerts begin Wednesday

WORTHINGTON ­ A lively bunch of multi-generational area musicians is eagerly anticipating the 121st season of the “Amazing” Worthington City Band, with the first concert of the summer scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Chautauqua Park.

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“Our city band is about people working together to achieve a similar goal, being expressive through music and having fun in the process,” said trombonist Brett Lehman.

“And I really love the city band tradition. It’s a very pleasant activity for the community on summer evenings, and it’s great to be out in the open air playing.”

New to the band’s leadership in 2014, although not altogether new to the organization itself, is Mike Peterson.

Peterson, who retired last year after 35 years as Fulda’s band director, is picking up the director’s baton from Jon Loy, the city band’s leader for the past five years.

“It was disappointing to know that Jon Loy wouldn’t be able to continue because the Worthington High School band program is so successful and his summers have become so full, but having Mr. Peterson come in is really exciting, too,” said Lehman, a member of the band’s board.

“Mike will be another strong director for the band, and after just a couple of rehearsals, he seems to fit right in,” continued Lehman. “He was able to hold his own with any smart cracks from the band, and I think he’s going to have fun with it.”

Outgoing director Loy added his endorsement.

“It’s an honor to have Mike Peterson lead the band now,” expressed Loy. “He has a real legacy in the region, and he brings a lot of excellence and expertise to the podium.”

During Glenn Evensen’s tenure with the city band, Peterson played trombone in the group for a few years in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

“After that, it conflicted too much with my own summer program, and we started concerts in the Fulda park, so I had to discontinue my participation,” explained Peterson.

Though he’s now delighted to make time for the local band’s eight consecutive Wednesday night concerts (plus the 4th of July), Peterson has kept plenty busy since retiring.

Peterson has been driving charter buses for Reading Bus Lines, officiating at high school and community college volleyball games, working with a company that sells fundraising calendars and serving as an adjudicator for music contests. He also plays trumpet (and occasionally trombone) in the Fulda Area Big Band.

“I’m retired in that I’m not teaching full-time anymore, but it’s not the kind of retirement that involves sitting at home,” laughed Peterson. “There are a lot of other things to be doing, too.”

Peterson and his family, which includes wife Lisa (a preschool teacher of special needs students in Fulda) and three children, have long been members of Worthington’s American Lutheran Church.

“You don’t change what’s working real good, so the summer band concerts will be very much like those of past years,” said Peterson. “The Worthington community has been so supportive of the band, and we’ll continue to play good, crowd-pleasing music — that’s exactly my philosophy, too.

“Audiences will always hear at least one march, and a good old-fashioned arrangement of a Lutheran hymn, at my concerts.”

Peterson knows he is assuming a heavy mantle of tradition, and following in a fairly short line of distinguished directors, in his new role with the “Amazing” Worthington City Band.

“I look forward to being part of that tradition as director,” he assured. “As I go through the scores, I see a lot of notes in Glenn Evensen’s handwriting that indicate how he approached things with the band in his day.

“And I know Jon Loy real well, and he had fun with the band for five years, and Donna Larson and Galen Benton before that.”

Loy agreed.

“The city band is at an all-time high of involvement and participation, and it’s great to see so many high school kids join the ranks and carry on the traditions that have been set forth decades before,” Loy said.

Another ongoing tradition that will stick this week is having Worthington insurance agent Pat O’Neill as emcee of the season’s first concert.

“Pat gets the first slot,” assured Lehman. “He’s so excellent at being the emcee, and he loves music and is one of the best joke tellers I know.”

O’Neill, who has lost track of the years he’s emceed Worthington city band concerts but knows it’s more than 20, quipped, “If you can make people laugh, what else is there? There’s no sense being serious all the time.”

“I think he enjoys being heckled by the band, and harassing us in return,” Lehman said of O’Neill. “But jokes about trombones don’t faze us — we’re strong.”

And now, a trombone-playing director will also have the section’s back.

“I’m really looking forward to directing the ‘Amazing’ Worthington City Band and entertaining the crowds at Chautauqua Park,” confirmed Peterson.

The “Amazing” Worthington City Band’s summer concert series begins at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Chautauqua Park and continues each Wednesday through July 23, as well as at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 4. In case of inclement weather on concert days, tune in to KWOA for concert information.