A little Sunday night music


By Marilyn Delk


One of the joys of summer in our community is the opportunity to enjoy Sunday evening concerts by the Greenville Municipal Band in Greenville City Park! Only two such opportunities remain, as the concert season ends on Labor Day weekend. This Sunday, August 27, will feature the Jazz Band under the direction of Doug Albright and featuring vocalist Chelsea Whirledge; the final performance by the entire ensemble of local musicians on September 3 will offer the opportunity to hear “Music that didn’t make the cut.” Band Director J.R. Price explained the inspiration for the concert’s unique theme: “So much good music that we really wanted to use didn’t fit into the Band’s previous hour-long programs; we wanted those songs to be heard.”

According to J.R., the band has its roots in a “Silver Cornet Band” from the 1870’s; however, official records credit 1883 as the beginning of the Greenville Municipal Band. Records from July 4, 1883, show that Professor Michael Miller of Dayton, “one of the most thoroughly educated and practical musicians in the State,” was “here with our Band… in the hope of obtaining satisfactory terms to stay and lead the Band to the highest point in music,” as well as that on August 22, 1883, an open air concert given by the Miller-led “Silver Cornet Band” was “well appreciated.” However, Professor Miller resigned in February 1884; as explained in contemporaneous accounts, “his ability as a musician was fully up to all requirements… somehow the members of the Band felt compelled to do away with the expense of an instructor.”

Since those long ago beginnings, generations of Darke Countians have supported the local musical group and its performances. Prior to the building of the Marling Band Shell, Thursday evening concerts were played from a hay wagon alternating sites between the Darke County Court House and the old City Building located on what is now the traffic circle at Broadway and Main. In his will, Dr. A.J. Marling, who had played with the band in the 1880’s, designated $1000 be used to construct a band shell in Greenville City Park; concerts have been performed at the Marling Band Shell since its completion in 1934.

Other iconic local figures also figured in the building of that beloved performance space. The band shell was designed by Martin Wogoman, a highly respected local artist who pioneered the establishment of the Art Guild where he mentored hundreds of aspiring art students. The construction of the shell was overseen by Dwight Brown, a member of the City Park Board who, in addition to being a legendary instrumental music teacher at Greenville City Schools, directed the Municipal Band from 1928 through 1974.

Concerts at the shell were at first performed on Sunday afternoons before eventually changing to the current Sunday evening schedule. J.R. Price is now in his 13th year as conductor of the Greenville Municipal Band; others who have held the position include Russell Aukerman, Ted Shuttleworth, Owen Griffith, Steve Roach, and Doug Albright. Trumpeter John Slonaker is the longest standing member of the group, which includes a number of musicians who teach or have taught music to local school students, as well as local students who are welcomed through the Band’s apprentice program.

Conductor Price cannot contain his enthusiasm when he speaks of the impressive attendance numbers enjoyed by Municipal Band performances. “It’s wonderful how crowds have grown—a time for folks to be a family—a really cool time,” he said. He is also extremely proud of the band members, the guest soloists, and the enormous team which supports the band’s efforts financially. “We have a real good thing going on,” J.R. enthused; “and I am proud to be a part of it.”

Join the crowd; spend a pleasant Sunday evening in the park enjoying a happy tradition that continues to attract and hold the attention of local music lovers of all ages. You’ll undoubtedly see lots of people that you know tapping their toes, clapping their hands, and enjoying a really good time.

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