A mix of outstanding students, veteran pros
The band will play on.
Just in time for the first concert of the year this summer, the Storm Lake Municipal Band has found a new young director to take the helm at the classic old bandshell.
Jason Heeren, the band director for the Aurelia Schools, is thrilled with the sudden opportunity. "I'm going to be a doing a lot of learning from this. I love the music, and I enjoy being able to teach it and conduct it. This is an opportunity that I never expected."
It was as simple as being in the right musical place at the right time.
Heeren was in Cherokee recently for a jazz and blues festival, where he bumped into Marty Crandell, the longtime Storm Lakemusician and a leader of the band trustees. "He told me that the director of the Storm Lake band had resigned, and asked if I would be interested. I checked my schedule and found out that it could work," he said.
When he isn't wading through classic and modern musical favorites, he's looking for hits on the diamonds, where he doubles as Aurelia's varsity softball coach.
The Stanhope native comes from a musical family, and is the grandson of well-known Iowa conductor Max Whitlock. "I started playing in the fifth grade, and I've been deeply involved in music ever since."
He earned a degree in music from Morningside, and at Aurelia, is able to work with musicians from age 10 through high school seniors.
Heeren replaces Gary Willett, who led the band for the past 17 years before relocating to Boone after his job in education at Lytton was phased out in budget cuts.
The new director's plan for the band is more of the same fare that has drawn large crowds for generations. "I like every style of music, and we will have a great variety for the band this year. There will be a lot of the good old standards, and we will be introducing some modern pieces and some surprises as well," he said.
The band is well known as a class act, and was recently invited to join a national registry of established municipal music organizations. It also has an open invitation to take part in the Boone Municipal Invitational, the state's top gathering of community adult bands.
"I'm very enthusiastic about what the band can do. Our numbers of musicians are up, and I think it's going to be an exciting year," Crandell said.
The group boasts an eclectic mix from some of the most talented high school and college performers in the region to some veterans with decades of professional or amateur performances behind them - such as Ron Dierwechter, Jim Inman, Glen Bell, Deanna Larson, Alan Bridge and others, Crandell said.
New musicians are also welcome, and may call Heeren at 434-2664. Rehearsals are at the BVU band room 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, and all are welcome. There is a modest payroll, thanks to the city providing a bit of a budget for the band.
In fact, Crandell said, music is such a part of the Iowa heritage that back in the 1930s, a law was passed calling for a token amount of city tax revenues to be set aside for municipal bands. Storm Lake and several of the other major bands around the state still operate on that basis.
"A municipal band is simply a part of our culture. It is an art form, and many, many people seem to appreciate what we do. They come out to the park and enjoy an afternoon of good music," Crandell said. "It serves as a good entertainment option for people, and at the same time, it is an outlet for people who love to play music to continue to play and share their skills."
If you would like to absorb some of that skill, and welcome Jason Heeren to the band, bring your blanket or lawn chair to the Sunset Park bandshell Sunday at 2 p.m.
The debut concert of the year will feature familiar marches and classic pieces, as well as modern pieces such as "The Maelstrom" and "In This Quiet Place." Music lovers will also quickly recognize a medley of Gershwin showtunes. A special treat will be a performance of "Reminiscence," by local composer David Moore of LeMars.
The concert schedule will run for seven weeks this summer, and a season-ending show, as always, will be held at Methodist Manor for the community's seniors.