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Southern Oregon Concert Band

It all started back in 1909 when the Hillah Temple in Ashland had in its charter that the temple was to have a band. The Hillah Temple Shrine Band was formed, and the members donned Middle-Eastern looking uniforms and white spats to go with their Shriner's fezzes.

It was an all-male band and marched in parades led by its drum major. Over the years, the band would win awards and see its numbers grow to as many as 80 members with its combined drum and bugle corps.

One hundred years and many changes later, the band's direct descendant, the Southern Oregon Concert Band, will be performing a free centennial celebration concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 19, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Southern Oregon Concert Band president Ling Helphand said, "We wanted our last concert (of the season) to be in the best place it could be — the Craterian."

Ted Dollarhide conducts the 60-member community band, which has evolved into a broad-based community band, with players from more than a dozen communities in the Rogue Valley. "We're the largest community band in Southern Oregon that welcomes all players of reasonable skill," vice president Jon Kimbal said. There are no auditions. One of the members has been with the band for 52 years and many have been with the band for 10 years or more. The oldest player is 92 years old, and the youngest is a 14-year-old middle school student.

"We're a band of and for the community," Helphand said.

RVTV will tape the show as part of its project on the history of the band. Part of that history includes the 1970s and '80s, when membership in fraternal organizations declined. To get new members, the band decided to remove the requirement of being a Shriner and welcomed men in the community to join. The name changed to the Southern Oregon Men's Band. When women were admitted in 1991, the band changed its name again, to the Southern Oregon Symphonic Band. Today, almost half the members are women.

In 1996, the band became the Southern Oregon Concert Band. It is no longer a marching band, but it has produced several off-shoot ensembles including The Swing Kings Dance Band, Sauerkrauts German Band, Ashland Brass Quintet and the Jabberwocky Dixieland Band.

The Centennial Celebration will feature original compositions, favorites, guest soloists and it will open with members of the Talent and Scenic Middle School choirs singing the "Star Spangled Banner."

The program will include George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," with piano solo by Daniel Swayze.

Since its premier in 1924, "Rhapsody in Blue" has been hailed as an epoch-making work that brought jazz into the concert hall. It remains a milestone in the development of an independent American concert repertoire.

Swayze is a Southern Oregon University student of Alexander Tutunov. Kimbal recalled that when asked to suggest someone who could play "Rhapsody in Blue" with the concert band, Tutunov said, "I can only think of two people who can handle this piece and he's one of them."

The program also will include "Valentine Medley," an original arrangement by Dollarhide sung by soprano Heather Hutton. The medley includes the songs "But Beautiful," "It Had to Be You" and "My Funny Valentine." Hutton is a vocal coach and teacher as well as a singer.

Helphand considers the pairing of concert band music, Gershwin and a soprano vocalist to be a rarity for concert bands.

Other works featured in the concert include the premier of an original composition, "Suite of Flight" by George Somi, "Chicago" (That Toddlin' Town) by Fred Fisher; and "Berceuse" and "Finale," from Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite." John Drysdale, who was the band's conductor for many years and was instrumental in turning the band into a concert band, will close the concert by conducting John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever."

The band rehearses from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays at Ashland Middle School, 100 Walker Ave., Ashland. Call 482-0615.

Southern Oregon Concert Band Director Ted Dollarhide. - Southern Oregon Concert Band