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A BIT OF HISTORY
Compared to many community bands across the country, the Rogue Valley Symphonic Band is a relative newcomer. While other bands, including the Ashland City Band which includes several members of the RVSB, trace their roots back into the 1800's, our beginnings are much more recent. Here is how the RVSB began and how we got where we are today:
The Rogue Valley Symphonic Band was originally named "Rogue Valley Wind Ensemble" (RVWE.) The RVWE is now the parent organization of the Symphonic Band. The RVWE is a non-profit corporation under IRS and State of Oregon recognition.
The Ashland (Oregon) City Band has existed for many, many years and traditionally performs eight concerts in Ashland's Lithia Park from June through August each year. At the close of the final concert of 1987 clarinetist Pat Collins said to Frank Brugman, "It's too bad we don't have a band to play in the rest of the year". This prompted Frank to get together with some of the musicians to talk about forming a new band. The formation Board of Directors consisted of Penny Austin, Don Bieghler, Ray Gilette, Herb Greuling, Linda Harris, Dave Wight, and Frank Brugman.
The band's first rehearsal was in April of 1988 and the first concert (view program) was performed in Medford, Oregon's Bear Creek Park on Sunday July 10, 1988. Conducting honors were shared by Charles (Chuck) Mason and Don Bieghler with Mayor Jerry Lausman providing commentary and program notes.
Concerts to January 1990 were directed by, among others, Max McKee who was at that time Director of Bands at Southern Oregon College (now University) and Clarence Shaw, the father of the long-time conductor of the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra, Arthur Shaw.
In January 1990 we were fortunate to welcome Bill Norfleet as our permanent Music Director. Bill had directed the Grants Pass High School Band, the University of Oregon Marching Band, and served as Associate Director of the University's Wind Ensemble. During his years directing our band he brought the group to new levels of excellence and prestige in the music community. At the end of the 1998-1999 season Mr. Norfleet stepped down.
The baton was passed to Dr. David McKenzie, newly arrived in the Rogue Valley. Dr. McKenzie brought to us a wealth of music experience having directed symphony orchestras and concert bands in North and South America. His great talent led him to other endeavors including chairing the Chamber Music Concerts and serving as Music Director of the Britt Festivals. He served the Band for two seasons before leaving to pursue his other activities. During his tenure The Band instituted annual concert seasons, performing three times per year at Medford's Westminster Presbyterian Church. These concerts are a continuing function of the Band along with outside park concerts, performances for local schools, retirement homes, and special occasions.
The 2001-2002 season saw the search for a new conductor with Bill Norfleet directing in the fall, Yair Strauss conducting in the winter, and Steve Kessler conducting in the spring.. Mr. Strauss had directed the Eugene Symphony Orchestra and later the Rogue Valley Symphony for several years. Starting in 2002 Steve Kessler became our Music Director. Steve had just moved to the Valley to take the position as Band Director at Eagle Point High School. After one year he was offered the highly desired position as director at Medford North High School. Our Symphonic Band began rehearsing in his band room.
In 2006 Steve Kessler stepped down as Music Director and the search for a replacement yielded Dr. Martin Behnke. He was a new addition to the Rogue Valley but a long-time musician and music educator, having recently retired from Willamette University where he had been, among other things, Chairman of the Music Department.
Upon Dr. Behnke's departure, the RVSB invited a host of talented guest conductors to steer the band through the 2007-2008 season. Through the year, we were fortunate to follow the baton of Don Bieghler, Chuck Mason, Dave Hegdahl, Bob Heide, and Bill Norfleet. Bill Norfleet returned to the podium full-time in 2008. In 2010 the RVSB recruited for a new director and chose a recent transplant from Wisconsin, retired college St. Norbert College band director and music professor Dr. Frederick Schmidt, to take the reins. He successfully led the band for two years then passed the baton to the new Ashland High School band director Jon Soderberg- Chase , who helmed the RVSB until 2015. In 2015, after Jon left to pursue his DMA in Conducting from the University of Minnesota, the band ran another search and found another new transplant in Dan Kocurek. Dan was formerly lead trumpet with the world-renowned Dallas Brass and came to Ashland to accept a position at Southern Oregon University teaching Trumpet, Music Theory, and directing the SOU Wind Ensemble.
In 2021, Dr. Christine Lundahl took over the position of Director of Bands at Southern Oregon University and has been Artistic Director of the RVSB ever since, taking the ensemble to new heights and reaching a wider audience.
The overall activities of the band are governed by the Board of Directors, in cooperation with the Music Director, who attends all Board Meetings. Officers are elected by the board, and one-third of the twelve Board members are elected each June by vote of the band for three year terms. This provides for continuity of direction for the group and its continuing success in future years. If you'd like to have a hand in that success, please don't hesitate to donate. If you would like to do so, you can click the "donate" button in the toolbar at the top of the page.
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