Not every community can boast of its own band, but Rhinelander can. In fact, the Rhinelander Area Community Band has a history dating back 37 years. The group, some 40 pieces strong, will perform music for all ages at a free concert at 1 p.m. on Nov. 24 in the Nicolet College Theatre.
Band conductor Jim Pekol said the repertoire for the Nicolet concert will include “On, Wisconsin!” (the fight song of the University of Wisconsin Badgers), highlights from “Wizard of Oz” (which is 80 years-old this year), a medley of marches from Broadway shows, some swing tunes, a polka, a novelty number based on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and a concert piece by John Phillip Sousa. In between numbers, Pekol will say a few words about the upcoming piece that informs the audience about the music.
“Whenever we put together a concert, we try to present a good mix of things,” Pekol said. “There will always be a variety of marches, some show tunes, some concert pieces, some pop songs, even some patriotic songs at times.”
Like the music it performs, the band itself represents a wide range of ages, from high school students to senior citizens.
“We’ve had some musicians in their 90s,” Pekol said. Those who wish to join the group don’t have to audition, but it takes a certain level of skill to play the various parts so rarely will the band have members younger than high school age. The size of the group swells in the summer when the snowbird members return to the area. The players come from communities all over the Northwoods region.
Pekol, a published composer and arranger who studied music education at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, plays a wide variety of instruments including saxophone and accordion. In 1979, he formed a Slovenian-style polka band that performed with Frank Yankovic, America’s Polka King, from 1986 to 1996.
“Last year we moved the location of the band’s fall concert to the Nicolet stage, and it was a perfect fit,” Nicolet College theatre director Jim Nuttall said. “The audience here loves the group and there’s a special spirit to it of neighbors entertaining neighbors in a highly accomplished way.”
The Rhinelander Area Community Band performance is part of the Nicolet Live! 2019-2020 Performing Art Series and will take place in the Nicolet College Theatre. The free performance is at 1 p.m., allowing people enough time to enjoy the concert and also make it back home for the 3:25 p.m. kick off for the Packer game.