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Music alumni sought for reunion

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news Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- The invitations are in the mail, and the itinerary has been mapped out.

There are still details to be worked on, but the groundwork has been laid for "A Salute to Excellence," a special Worthington High School band alumni celebration scheduled for King Turkey Day weekend, Sept. 13-15.

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The event will pay tribute to two beloved band directors: Gerald Niemeyer, who served the district from 1946 until he and his wife were killed in a tragic car accident in 1961; and Glenn Evensen, director from 1962-1983. All the musicians who played in the band under their direction are invited to take part in the weekend.

In addition, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the community decision to save Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, which will serve as the headquarters for many of the reunion events.

Many local people and organizations are involved in planning the event, and Richard "Dick" Larson, who was the first-year junior high band director at the time Niemeyer was killed and temporarily assumed his duties, will direct a reunion band. Larson now lives in the Denver, Colo., area. After leaving Worthington, he changed his focus to choral music, first working in Austin and then leading choral and orchestral programs at schools in Colorado. He is now the artistic director of an elite choral group, Kantorei, which is currently on tour in Europe.

Larson was "thrilled" to be part of an event that recognizes two men who were his mentors at the place where his own career started.

"I was glad to hear it was happening," Larson said in a phone interview. "There's a legacy and history of that program that goes beyond the Niemeyer days, back to the Vic Moeller days, the long-standing tradition of that band program. I'm really glad to see there's going to be an opportunity for people to reminisce, to talk about maybe how that program changed their life, because a musical program can change a life."

The weekend's agenda begins on Sept. 13 with the organization and rehearsal of the alumni band, followed by an alumni musician showcase and reception. Another rehearsal is scheduled for Sept. 14, as well as a reunion dance and reception.

Alumni may also attend the Trojan High School Homecoming football game that evening.

On King Turkey Day, Sept. 15, the musical alumni will have the opportunity to tour their alma mater, attend the King Turkey Day Parade and be introduced during a band exhibition at Trojan Field. After a buffet dinner in their honor, the alumni reunion band concert and variety show is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.

The weekend's focus will definitely be on music, but organizers stress that participants don't have to still be familiar with their instruments to attend.

"That's been one of my concerns, that most people would just say, 'I can't do this, so goodbye,'" Larson said. "One of things I hope would be that these people need to feel they are part of this legacy, that their input and experience needs to be shared, even if they're not capable of playing a trumpet solo anymore. They don't necessarily need to play, but need to have an outlet to express what was happening in their lives at that time."

At the same time, however, Larson hopes that some solid talent does show up to make his directing job a bit easier. Alumni who still have musical aptitude are encouraged to be part of the reunion band and to register before July 15, as music will be sent out in advance. All people who plan to participate in the reunion are asked to respond by Aug. 1.

"I'm not worried about conducting, but I am worried about programming," Larson continued. "We need to be realistic about what we can do. As we get closer, if find we have ringers, some who are really on top of their game coming in to play, we could stretch a little bit. But I'm concerned about knowing who those people are, what their background is and what they're able to do."

Invitations for "A Salute to Excellence" were sent out based on available WHS class lists, and organizers realize that some band members were likely missed in the process.

"We've mailed out 626 invitations," said Steve Rubis, one of the reunion committee members. "The biggest challenge so far has been getting names and addresses. Some classes have no class lists, so we're trying to communicate with them through emails and Facebook. There are probably between 400 and 500 that we didn't mail."

Anyone band member from 1946-1983 who did not receive an invitation or email notification about the musical reunion can get the information by going to: www.wgtn.net; or contact Rubis, scrubis@frontiernet.net; phone 360-9653.

Additionally, a potluck supper for band alumni who live in the area has been tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. July 18, preceding the "Amazing" City Band concert in Chautauqua Park.

Band members from the 1960s -- classes that have been especially cooperative in planning for the reunion -- will assume hosting duties for the picnic.

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