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Strike up the Band!

If you’re in Lithia Park Thursday night, you just might hear the rousing sounds of a John Philip Sousa march or the stirring strains of Cole Porter’s beguiling “Begin the Beguine.”

The Ashland City Band will launch its summer concert series June 13 at the Lithia Park Bandshell, 150 Winburn Way, in Ashland. The bandshell grounds are surrounded by towering cedars and redwoods, providing a shady venue for an old-fashioned concert of marches, overtures, show tunes and original works for band.

The hour-long concerts start at 7 p.m. except for the Fourth of July performance, which starts at noon. The Thursday night programs are preceded by half-hour mini-concerts at 6:15, featuring a variety of smaller ensembles. This week, early birds will be treated to the jazzy sounds of a Dixieland band. The 10th and final concert of the summer will be Aug. 15.

Although there is bench seating down front, many concert-goers bring blankets or lawn chairs and picnic suppers, settling in on the expansive sloping lawn.

Don Bieghler, 75, is in his 22nd year as musical director. A Medford resident, he has lived in the Rogue Valley all his life, receiving a B.S. in Music Education from Southern Oregon College (now University). He’s excited about the season and its lineup of soloists and special guests.

“The Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps from Casper, Wyoming, will share the concert stage with us June 20,” he said. “They’ll play some of the music they use for their marching competitions.” A world-class, nationwide touring group, they’re stopping in Ashland on their way to performances in three California cities that weekend.

Scheduled solo performances include an alphorn duet with the band (June 27), a French horn rondo from a Mozart concerto (July 18), and the entire clarinet section (July 25) in a performance of “Pie in the Face Polka” by Henry Mancini from the movie “The Great Race.”

“We’re doing something new this year,” Bieghler said. “We’ll feature one new concert band publication at each concert,” adding to their already large library of works for band.

In addition to the Sousa and Cole Porter selections, this Thursday’s concert will include Henry Fillmore’s “The Footlifter March,” which had its origins as a radio advertising jingle; “American Folk Rhapsody No. 2,” with familiar tunes such as “Billy Boy,” “Skip to My Lou” and “Shenandoah;” a medley from “Fiddler on the Roof;” and the “Prometheus Overture” from a Beethoven ballet.

Besides the Dixieland band, other groups performing pre-shows this summer include Jefferson State Brass Ensemble, Rogue Valley Symphony French Horn Quartet, the RVS Brass Quintet, a German band, and the Ashland Brass Quintet.

Bieghler is proud of the band’s strong leadership. Most of the musicians play with other Rogue Valley groups, including the symphony and symphonic band. In addition to new, young talent, there are many long-term band members. With service ranging from 40 to 53 years are Paul Hedges, Dave Hegdahl, Harvey Woods, Pat Collins, Dave Hoxie, Mike Knox and Bieghler. Trombonist Raoul Maddox was with the band for 70 years and retired at the end of 2018. For 21 of those years he was the conductor.

Bieghler says the band has a strong core of volunteers who help lighten the workload. Among them are Brian Tingle, P.A. operator; Ed Wight, librarian; Lauri Sutterfield, assistant librarian; and Yvonne Rowe and her daughter Jenetta Plankenhorn, quartermasters.

Since 2009, the Ashland Lions Club has been part of the scene, selling ice cream treats to benefit Ashland Middle School and Ashland High School music programs.

“To date, they have raised over $30,000 for our local band programs to help purchase instruments and pay for some band field trips,” Bieghler said.

A musical tradition more than 140 years in the making, the free concerts were first offered here in 1876 by the Ashland Brass Band. Other small bands followed in their footsteps. The Ashland City Band acquired its official status in the 1930s when voters approved a small tax millage to underwrite band expenses.

For more information about programs, personnel, photos, concert dates, band history and more, go to ashlandband.org.

Jim Flint is a retired newspaper editor and publisher living in Ashland. Reach him at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

A crowd fills the Lithia Park Bandshell lawn as Don Bieghler conducts the Ashland City Band in a 2018 concert. Photo by Jim Flint. Photo by Jim Flint