Leader of the Band is Stepping Down
The Concert Band of Northwest Pennsylvania was founded 40 years ago. Its first concert was a year later, in June 1983. It always has been under the direction of one man. But, that man is stepping down after one last concert.
Members of the band are rehearsing for this weekend's concert that will honor John Fleming. He’s the band's founder and director for the past 40 years. The band wants to make the upcoming concert something special.
"It truly will be a celebration. It will be our chance also to just play our hearts out and do the best we possibly can showing our respect for John and all those 40 years,” says Don Cameron, a clarinetist.
Fleming describes himself as a violinist who loves band music. He founded the Concert Band of Northwest Pennsylvania to share that love with the region. But now, at 80 years old, he's ready to step down as director.
"There's a lot of work that you do. The music part of it is the simple part. But, all the other parts are not necessarily as much fun,” he says.
Greg Tower plays the euphonium for the Concert Band.
"John has been instrumental, and that's no pun, in all of the organization of the music, a lot of behind the scenes work. People just don't understand that. That's going to be missed."
Tower has been a member of the concert band since the very beginning. Seven other members have also been with the group for the entire 40 years. Michelle Whalen was recruited by Fleming when she was a student at Edinboro University. She believes he created not just a band, but a family.
"I can't even imagine that I'm 40 years old let alone 40 years with the same family of musicians. And they are family,” she says.
"He'll always have a part of this group,” says Cheryl Trost, who plays the flute. “He's developed the heart of the group and that's always going to be there."
There may be some tears at John Fleming's final concert this weekend. The band will play a tune called "New Colonial March." It’s a number Fleming picked for the band's first concert back in 1983.
Jack Braun, 91, is another 40 year member of the band. He says the group is looking forward to giving a great performance as a final salute to its founder.
"We'll all be up to do our best for him. No question about it."
Armond Walter will take over as director of the Concert Band of Northwest Pennsylvania. He is also the band director at Meadville Area High School.
The John Fleming Celebration Concert will be held Sunday, June 5 at 3 p.m. at Cole Auditorium on the Edinboro University campus.