Even if you’ve been going to the free Kokomo Park Band concerts in Highland Park for years, there’s something new — especially this year.
With the coordination and the funding from Center Township Trustee Jean Lushin, the Highland Park stage has been repaired and upgraded.
The Kokomo Band will open its 2010 Summer Concert Series at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 9, in Highland Park. Free weekly concerts will continue through July 29.
The current conductor, Steve Rhodes, a talented trombonist and arranger, is beginning his 21th season as music director of the band.
Financial support includes the City of Kokomo Community Arts Commission, the Kokomo Parks & Recreation Department, the Tippecanoe Arts Federation, the Indiana Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Community Foundation of Howard County.
Major business sponsors include North Woods Commons and Community First Bank.
Popcorn and drinks are provided by the “Serving in Love” team from Morning Star Church.
The Northwestern Lions Club will be collecting used eyeglasses at the concerts.
Attendees are advised to arrive early to find parking. Limited seating is available, but many choose to bring their own lawn chairs. In the event of inclement weather, the concerts will be moved to Kokomo High School.
The Kokomo Park Band is a not-for-profit organization of professional, semi-professional, and student musicians whose purpose is to provide programs of broad appeal to residents and visitors of the Kokomo-Howard County area. The free weekly concerts include marches, overtures, popular selections, sing-a-longs, and other features well-suited to family audiences.
Numerous area soloists and nationally recognized guest conductors appear throughout the season as well.
A popular feature is the “Retired Rum-Runners Dixieland Band” comprised of KPB members. There is also a swing orchestra and a smaller “Gazebo Band” that is available for community and private events.
This year marks the 108th season for the Kokomo Park Band's Summer Concert Series. Recognized as one of Indiana's oldest musical institutions, the KPB organization has a documented history that dates back to the Civil War days.
Regular weekly summer concerts began in 1902 and became heart of community life bringing townspeople together for entertainment, cultural enrichment and fellowship.
“Even today,” according to assistant band manager Keith Whitford, “with crowds at concerts approaching 2,000 people, our organization still maintains a vital cultural role in our community.”
Band music has served various functions throughout our community’s history. The first band leader in Kokomo was Byron Reed (1828-1896). At that time the band was active providing music for recruitment rallies, patriotic parades, and union meetings during the Civil War years.
The next band leader of note was a drummer in Reed's band named Tom Ogden. His band played frequently for political rallies, sidewalk sales, traveling dog and pony shows, and commencement ceremonies of Kokomo High School.
In 1902, Alton S. Mygrant became the local band leader and the group, known as the Kokomo City Band, began weekly summer concerts in Highland Park (known then as Exhibition Park).
In the '20s the name changed to "The Chamber of Commerce Band" and engaged 25 uniformed musicians.
During the Depression the band's activities included playing for Kokomo "Red Sox" baseball games, giving benefit concerts for charities and hospitals in nearby towns, and participating in the Indianapolis 500 activities in addition to concerts in the parks and on the Howard County Courthouse Square. Mygrant also established a successful music store that served Kokomo for half a century.
From 1935-1967, Ross Dwiggins inherited the directorship of the band. Sponsorship of the Kokomo band was provided by the Elks Club and later Post 6 of the American Legion. Until 1982 the band was named the "Post 6 American Legion Band." The Kokomo Park Band still opens its concerts with Charles Parker's "American Legion March" in appreciation of the support it receives from Post 6.
Other directors have included Norbert Johnson, Don Clymer, Haworth High School director Al Jones, Jerry Daniels (Taylor High School), Larry Kirkman, "Bud" Drake (Oak Hill), Max Millspaugh (Northwestern), Chuck Whorwell (Eastern), and Bob Thornburg (Carroll).
Since its reorganization as a not-for-profit corporation in 1988, the band has been known as "The Kokomo Park Band" in recognition of its function in the Kokomo community.
More extensive history can be found on the Kokomo Park Band Web site: www.kokomoparkband.org.
June 9, "Conductor's Choice" — Bruce Knepper, trumpet soloist, featuring The Retired Rum-Runners Dixieland Jazz Band
June 16, "Hollywood Blockbusters" — Sally Duke, soprano soloist, featuring The Retired Rum-Runners Dixieland Jazz Band
June 23, "Spotlight on Youth" — Dr. Jay Gephart (Purdue University bands) guest conductor; high school student soloist competition winner, featuring the Youth Percussion Workshop participants
June 30, Patriotic Program "I Hear America Singing" — Diana Huntoon, soprano; Cherresa Lawson, soprano; Fritz Robertson, tenor; Gary Wallyn, baritone; featuring the Albert E. Shockey Detachment of the Marine Corps League
July 7, Big Band Night "The Fabulous Fifties" — Cherresa Lawson, soprano soloist
July 14, "Side by Side Concert” — Col. Bryan Shelburne (U.S. Army Bands), guest conductor; professor Stacy Maugans (Valparaiso University) alto saxophone soloist; featuring The Retired Rum-Runners Dixieland Jazz Band
July 21, Legacy Concert "In The Center Ring" — Keith Whitford, cornet soloist, featuring the saxophone section
July 28, "Over The Waves" — musical voyage of selections inspired by the sea, featuring The Kokomo "Men of Note" Barbershop Chorus
The Kokomo Park Band is funded through corporate support, grants, and private donations. All three of these areas are vital to meet immediate financial needs as well as future growth. Individual contributions of any amount are appreciated and are tax-deductible. The mailing address is Kokomo Park Band, PO Box 6039, Kokomo, IN 46902.