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'Amazing' Worthington City Band poised to perform in 119th season

brianna darling/daily globe Worthington's Jeff Johnson (right) is ready to begin his 33rd year in the "Amazing" Worthington City Band, while son Jared (left) is starting his second.

WORTHINGTON -- The 119th season of the "Amazing" Worthington City Band is scheduled to commence Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Chautauqua Park band shell.

"We've had a good turnout of musicians, and they're all quite enthusiastic," said director Jon Loy. "It's a real honor and privilege to lead a group with such a storied tradition."

The band already appeared briefly, at Monday's local Memorial Day ceremony, but next week brings its first full concert.

Last summer, Loy led a group of more than 40 city band musicians on a tour to Crailsheim, Germany, in late July, and though no such trip is planned for this year, the band is prepared to delight all comers each Wednesday evening -- and also on Independence Day -- this June and July.

"Going to Crailsheim was such a significant moment for the band that in our June 6 concert we are going to revisit some of the pieces we performed there," Loy said. Tunes like "Beer Barrel Polka," "Rock Around the Clock" and the "Crailsheimer Festmarsch" are therefore included in this week's program.

"This is our way to share some of the great memories we made there, and also thank Worthington residents for their terrific support as the band undertook the trip last year," he added.

While baritone saxophonists Jeff and Jared Johnson were not among the musicians who traveled to Germany in 2011, they represent another unique aspect of the "Amazing" Worthington City Band -- its cross-generational appeal and tendency to involve multiple players from several families.

"This is my 33rd year in city band," Jeff Johnson said. Jeff's son Jared, a 1982 Worthington High School (WHS) graduate, just completed his freshman year at the school and is embarking on his second year in the city band.

"Jared first learned the alto saxophone in fifth grade but switched to bari sax during middle school," explained Jeff.

"We share a stand in the city band, and I never expected something like that to happen -- but then I never guessed I'd be in the band this long, either," he said.

Jared Johnson is one of well over a dozen current WHS students who take a seat in the band each summer, easily sliding in alongside old-timers like his father.

"It's a chance to keep playing and lets me see my friends over the summer," expressed Jared of his city band participation. "I get to play some music that's easier than what we play during the school year.

"I wasn't too thrilled about going to the concerts when I was a kid and my parents were both playing in the band, but now it's fun being a part of it and playing the music instead of just being an onlooker and waiting for candy."

Candy is typically distributed to children in the park following each concert's "candy march," which occurs midway through the evening and is a moment eagerly anticipated by kids hanging out on the nearby park equipment, sometimes nearly oblivious to the assembled crowd and rhythmic band tunes.

Another weekly feature is intermission entertainment provided by area musicians -- singers or other instrumentalists who take the stage while the band members get a short break from playing.

The Great Plains String Quartet will be the season's first intermission act, as they accompanied the city band to Europe last summer and filled that role for concerts performed in Germany. One concert was performed in Crailsheim's Johanneskirche, which dates to 1440, while the other was an open-air affair on Crailsheim's Langestrasse.

"Our programming in June will cover a lot of band and crowd favorites," said Loy, who plans to take a short break himself during this fifth year of his city band leadership as he temporarily passes the baton for July's concerts to WHS and city band alumnus Kyle Fleming.

Fleming, a recent graduate of Wartburg College with a degree in music therapy, is a percussionist, vocalist and string bass player who is eager for this conducting opportunity.

"I was a city band member during my high school years, and I agreed to do this because band has always been a big part of my musical development," Fleming said. "It's exciting to get back into the band scene, and the city band is interesting because there's a two-day turn-around between each rehearsal and performance.

"With any performing group in high school or college, you practice for months and then give one big concert, but this is a new concert each week, which makes it both exciting and nerve-wracking."

Fleming confides he plans to stick with marches and patriotic music for the Fourth of July concert, but he also expects to "pull out something from the back that hasn't been done for awhile" to round out July's Wednesday evening concerts.

"I'll add as much variety as I and the band members are comfortable with," Fleming said.

Something new at Chautauqua Park on Wednesday evenings this summer will be the presence of Worthington Area Music Booster Organization (WAMBO) members selling simple concessions, with proceeds from the effort benefiting District 518's music programs.

"We hope both kids and adults will take advantage of this and bring along a few dollars on Wednesday nights so they can enjoy a treat during the concert and support the school music groups at the same time," said Lisa Brandt, a WAMBO officer.

The "Amazing" Worthington City Band performs its first Worthington concert of the 2012 summer season Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Chautauqua Park band shell. In case of inclement weather, visit or tune in to radio stations KWOA and US 104 for concert announcements,