After a long day’s work at the bank Tuesdays in late spring and summer, Tom Nemeth gets out his tenor saxophone and heads to the Waukegan Beach. There he joins the Waukegan Band to perform a free public concert to the backdrop of the sun setting over Lake Michigan.
The band celebrates its 80th season this year beginning with its first concert in the series at 7:30 p.m. June 9 in the Stiner Pavilion, 201 Seahorse Drive in Waukegan. “The Stiner Pavilion is like this big sail that’s lit,” said Nemeth, a Gurnee resident and senior vice president and controller of NorStates Bank in Waukegan. “It’s one of the hidden gems of Waukegan.” During the concerts, “you see the harbor behind the band. You see the skyline of Chicago, you see boats floating on the lake and you see a beautiful sunset,” he said. People can bring picnics and blankets and sit on the lawn or on the nearby sidewalk with lawn chairs.
This summer’s performances will feature four guest conductors vying for the permanent director position for the 2016 summer season. In addition, the Waukegan Park District will bring a van filled with art supplies to the concerts where children can draw pictures and do paintings while the band performs. “It started last summer. It’s really nice — it’s a lot of fun for the kids to be able to do that, sometimes they get a little antsy,” Nemeth said. Nemeth, who serves as the band’s treasurer, said when his children played in band both at Woodland Middle School and Warren Township High School in Gurnee, he was inspired to pick up his saxophone and play again. He, too, played in high school band. “When people come together and make music, it’s just a wonderful thing. It’s just amazing. It’s just magic,” he said.
Most of the 40-plus band members are local band directors and performers, which means they’re good musicians, he said. “It’s very much of a challenge. We rehearse on Monday evenings and put on the concert Tuesday evenings. You really have to be on your toes as a musician. It’s nice to play and be part of the community band. It’s nice to perform for audiences.” Typically, 150 to 200 people come to the concerts, he said.
The first concert, themed "Waukegan Band Turns 80," will be conducted by Zion Township High School Band director Shan Kazmi, a trombone player in the band. One of the selections will be music from the film “Jurassic Park.” The band will also perform a John Philip Sousa march, among other selections.
The second concert in the series will feature Mark A. Taylor as guest conductor. Taylor is director of the Milwaukee Festival Brass, and will present "A Walk in the Woods." He’s selected “Tales from the Vienna Woods” by Strauss and selections from Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” as part of the repertoire.
Two other guest conductors will direct: Laura Rexroth, director of bands at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside; and Steve Foggin, who once performed with a British regimental band and conducts a brass group in Illinois. Rexroth will conduct July 14 and 21; Foggin will conduct July 28 and Aug. 4.
“It will be interesting to see what rapport they have with the audience and with the band members,” Nemeth said.
Waukegan Band is a grant recipient of the Illinois Arts Council. The band relies on the tax deductible donations of sponsors, advertisers and attendees.
Summer Concert Series
When: 7:30 p.m., Tuesdays, June 9-Aug. 4
Where: Stiner Pavilion, Waukegan Beach, 201 Seahorse Drive, Waukegan
Tickets: Free and open to the public; free parking
Information: email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.waukeganband.com