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Evanston Review, Thursday, November 3, 2005

Concert band hits half-century mark


The Northshore Concert Band has been around for 50 years, and now it's time to party.

The 110-member symphonic band performs throughout the Chicago metropolitan area and has become internationally known and respected for its musical excellence, leadership in community music programming and dedication to music education.

Founded in 1956 and led for 40 years by the late John Paynter, who was director of bands at Northwestern University , Northshore Concert Band will kick off its inaugural, season-long celebration with a concert Sunday featuring renowned trumpeter Allen Vizzutti.

Performing up to 15 concerts a year and reaching more than 20,000 people annually, NCB's season includes a four-concert subscription series, educational outreach programs at area schools, summer concerts and professional band festivals and conferences.

"This is such a dedicated, loyal group that is devoted to perfection," said Evanston resident Mallory Thompson, artistic director and director of bands at Northwestern University . "I don't think you could name a profession that isn't represented in the group, from music teachers to lawyers and doctors, all of whom underwent a stringent audition process to be part of the band."

Thompson went to Northwestern to receive her undergraduate degree in music education and stayed on to receive a master's in conducting before getting her doctorate at the Eastman School of music in Rochester , N.Y. Then, she returned to her alma mater to teach music herself.

Thompson began with Northshore as a principal guest conductor, gradually working her way toward the helm. This is the first year she's filling the position solo.

Devoted musicians

"It's so inspiring to me to see these adults, who range in age from 21 to over 80, exert this degree of effort to make beautiful music when their lives are so complicated," she said.

Many members are so devoted, in fact, that they've remained a part of the group since its early days. That's saying something, since attendance and a lot of practicing is required, financial dues must be paid and travel expenses are the responsibility of members.

"I first joined when women were allowed to be members in 1961 and have been actively playing the B-flat clarinet with them ever since," said Glenview resident Janet Schroeder, who recently took on the arduous task of archiving the band's history, its members and its more than 650 programs to date.

"At that time, there were very few -- if any -- performance (outlets) like this," said Schroeder, a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin , Ohio . "Even today, there is something that really makes this (symphony) stand out. It creates such a marvelous sound, one that just gets in your ear."

Thompson has made it her goal to offer a wide-reaching repertoire. The upcoming concert, for example, will feature works by Richard Wagner, Gustav Holst, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and David Maslanka in addition to Vizzutti's appearance.

Of special note also will be "Whatsoever Things," a piece by Mark Camphouse that is dedicated to the band's former leader, Paynter, and offers variations of the University's alma mater song.

Vizzutti will host a free educational clinic for young musicians in the auditorium following the concert. Audience members are invited to stay after the concert and watch Vizzutti as he works one-on-one with students. Prior to the concert, WFMT's Carl Grapentine will host a free lecture in the auditorium at 2:15 p.m. , and he'll also speak from the stage during the concert.

"My hope is that this concert -- and all of the others -- will help us grow together as musicians," Thompson said. "I want to see us raise our standards even higher and expect more of ourselves musically. And, of course, I want to build our audience and continue to see it grow."

Northshore Concert Band
Featuring Allen Vizzutti
3 p.m. Sunday
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston
(877) BAND-TIX