The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018


Music in Van Wert

By: Paul Hoverman


If you are a regular reader of my column, you know how I despise people using acronyms that are assumed everyone knows … but don’t!  However, if you are a regular reader of my column, you have also heard me refer to “OMEA” before. OMEA stands for Ohio Music Educators Association. It is to music in our public schools as OHSAA (Ohio High School Athletic Association) is to athletics.

The OMEA is the state affiliation of MENC (Music Educators National Conference), and the Ohio state affiliate is divided into 17 districts. District III incorporates school music programs from Paulding, Van Wert, Mercer, Auglaize, Hardin, Allen, and Hancock counties. Each year, an audition takes place for students from these counties to form an honor band, jazz band, and choir. Hundreds of students audition to be a part of one of these musical ensembles. That audition takes place in November and then three all-day rehearsals are held leading up to the District Festival concert.  That concert will be held this Sunday, January 14, at 3 p.m.

The Niswonger Performing Arts Center is honored to host this event which will bring in over a thousand students, parents, grandparents, music teachers and the public. The concert is ticketed and you can usually get a ticket at the door if you arrive early enough.  Doors to the lobby will open at 2 p.m.

Prestigious conductors are secured to rehearse, prepare, and conduct these fine student musicians to create inspiring performances by their ensembles. Dr. Charlie Menghini of VanderCook College of Music in Chicago will direct the Honors Band. Dr. Richard Schnipke of Bowling Green State University will conduct the choir, and David Sycks of Bluffton High School and John Stetler of Elida High School team to direct the jazz band.

It is a memorable experience for these student musicians. My children still talk about their experiences of not only playing and singing with the best musicians in the district, but also working with such accomplished conductors.  It is a tremendously inspiring and educational musical opportunity.

Many of these students are also preparing solos and ensembles for the contest that will be held the next week at St. Mary’s Memorial High School.  The best of these performances will then be highlighted at our 15th annual Young Artist Recital on Sunday, February 4, at 3 p.m., in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Van Wert. 

It is hard to believe we have been presenting a young artist recital for soon to be 15 years!  The Van Wert County Foundation sponsors this event which is open to the public to attend, enjoy, and encourage these young budding musicians.  It is a free-admission event.  

It won’t be long until the professional concerts and acts get back on stage at the Niswonger. January 27 kicks off our second half of the season with the 2001 CMA (Country Music Association) Vocal Group of the Year — Lonestar.  Tickets range from $30-$50 and a limited number remain on sale at the box office and on-line.

We then bring the very popular kid’s show Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo Live to the Niswonger for two shows on February 3.  Tickets are available now for both the 1 and 4:30 pm shows.  Check out the Niswonger website: NPACVW.ORG for more information about this popular show.  It promises to be educational, entertaining and thrilling for young kids and adults alike!

The season continues with several more exciting concerts. And don’t forget: MJ Live: A Tribute to Michael Jackson is February 10 and Kenny G is March 24. I still see conflicting information on these dates. They were switched several months ago, but after the initial publication was made. MJ Live is February 10 and Kenny G is March 24. This is definitive!

We look forward to seeing you return to music in Van Wert as we enter this new year.  See you soon!


POSTED: 01/12/18 at 8:47 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

The year 2017 has ended with a flourish at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. Four of the final six concerts were sell-outs, and those that weren’t, nearly were. We now enter a new year and the second half of our season.  There will be 11 concerts and shows for you to enjoy, and that doesn’t include rentals such as the OMEA District 3 Band & Choir Festival in January, “Ohio Has Talent” in February, and three big dance recitals during May and June.

In addition to the busy Niswonger schedule, The Van Wert County Foundation will be sponsoring for a 15th consecutive year, its Young Artist Recital on February 4 at 3 p.m. in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church.

The Van Wert Civic Theater has three productions for you to enjoy in January, March, and May. Included in there is a musical — The Great American Trailer Park Musical — which will run weekends beginning March 8 through 18.

While you are enjoying the many performing arts attractions during this first half of 2018, we will be working on putting together a whole new season we hope will rival the very successful season we currently are enjoying at the Niswonger. Also, later this winter, I will be announcing the line-up for the 2018 Fountain Park Summer Music Series.  And don’t forget, you will get to try out the newly designed landscape in Fountain Park this summer.

I know many wonder how the upcoming shows and concerts are selling at the Niswonger. Our first concert of 2018 features Country music’s popular band, Lonestar. Their popularity continues as they are 60 seats away from being sold out.  Lonestar had many popular hit songs during the 1990s and 2000s, in addition to being named CMA’s Vocal Group of the Year in 2001. Their live concerts continue to be in great demand.

There are two big performances of the kids’ show “Dinosaur Zoo” on February 3. Both are during the day as they are scheduled for 1 and 4:30 p.m. This is a popular PBS kids’ show that will be brought to life on stage at the Niswonger. With two shows, there are still tickets remaining for you to get your child or grandchild for this amazing experience!

The Michael Jackson Tribute Show, MJ Live!, will come to town on February 10. This show is also nearly sold-out. Thirty seats remain for this one as I write this article. This amazing concert will be followed by a Sunday afternoon matinee on February 18 with Cirque Zuma Zuma. This show has been sold-out for some time.  It’s been some time since we had a cirque show at the Niswonger, but this one should be unique to any of the others we have had. This troupe is from Africa whereas the others have been mainly Asian acrobats. The music will be authentic African style and drumming.

Big-time Broadway takes the Niswonger stage in March as Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella comes for two big shows on Saturday, March 3.  We already have nearly 1,800 seats filled between the two shows, but some good seats are still available for either one right now. My wife and I saw this show in New York a couple years ago and it was a tremendous production with beautiful music and scenery.

I recently saw some advertising of Celtic Women which reminded me that we have our own show on St. Patrick’s Day- March 17 featuring one of the original and most recognizable Celtic Women, Chloe Agnew with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra.  This is a Founder’s Choice concert as Scott Niswonger enjoyed it so much down in Greenville, Tennessee that he put his stamp of recommendation on it for his hometown to present.  I am really looking forward to this one!  Wear your green and celebrate St. Patty’s Day in style at the Niswonger.  We’ll make it a very entertaining and fun night for everyone.

We finish the season with the popular saxophonist, Kenny G, on March 24, speaker Theresa Flores on March 27 and then our finale with Bostyx, featuring that great music from the iconic rock bands, Boston and Styx. Look for Kenny G and Bostyx to sell-out soon in the New Year.

With the words of Bing Crosby in my favorite holiday movie, White Christmas, “Well, that about wraps it up. We just happen to have a slam, bang finish!” Don’t miss the upcoming presentations at the Niswonger this New Year. They will be the talk of the town. Our box office will be closed January 1 and 2, but you can always order online at any time at NPACVW.ORG.

Here’s to a wonderful 2018.  May it be filled with peace, prosperity and lots of great music!


POSTED: 01/04/18 at 11:07 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

How many people does it take to run the Niswonger Performing Arts Center? Answer: 150 front of house volunteers, at least 10 regular stage crew volunteers, 50 committee members, three cleaning crew, 10 safety/security crew, several box office helpers, nine board members, six staff members, and an executive director: everything but a partridge in a pear tree!  If I count correctly, that’s just about 250 people.

How do you begin to say thank you to all those people? I guess you write about them in the news and say thank you as often as you see them. I am sure there are times the jobs seem a bit thankless, but hopefully, most of the time is rewarding. There is one thing that is for sure: we are truly blessed to have so many people willing to be a part of our operation at the Niswonger.

One group that gets little recognition (well, there are many, but I will mention one right now) is our Visual Arts Committee. Over the years, we have had numerous talented and gifted individuals serve as part of this committee. Currently, Linda Mechling is our committee chairperson and she has her crew of a few who decorate our lobbies and outdoors of the Niswonger. It is especially challenging, but beautiful at Christmastime. We have heard so many compliments on the appearance and it is due to this committee. Thank you, Linda and crew, for all your dedicated work. Some of these are the same who decorate the Brumback Library, churches, and numerous other community gathering areas.

Inside the music hall, our tech director’s wife, Kandi Saunier, helps create beautiful staging and decorations, as well as keeping the many volunteer staff well fed and happy. Thank you, Kandi! During big stage productions, this crew of volunteers will spend 16-20 continuous hours at the PAC. This is well beyond the call of duty and they can’t be thanked enough.

This highlights just a few of our many volunteers. There are so many who regularly dedicate their time.  They are not only Niswonger volunteers, but great ambassadors for the community of Van Wert. This Christmas season, we had six professional performances. Nearly 6,500 people attended these performances and, based on the reports of our ushers, the majority came from all over. Ask the restaurant owners in town if we were busy!

Our ushers and greeters are wonderful ambassadors and seemingly love to greet and welcome people to our community and our performing arts center. We constantly hear from people how welcome they feel at the Niswonger. One would think how we treat people is how everyone would treat people. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be true.

From the performer side, we hear the same thing. I just finished a phone call with the agent for The Texas Tenors and he was telling me how much the guys enjoyed our venue and hope to be back. Now, I always say that most performers like to perform at places that pay them, but it really does seem to be true that they feel the Niswonger is a very special place. The crew and management of Rudolph, the Musical wrote in their report that they wanted their agency to book them at the Niswonger again. It was the only such request on the tour, I was told.

People of Van Wert really do know how to treat people well. We are so blessed to have caring and hospitable people who are willing to donate their time. I will never take that for granted. And at this Christmas season, it is a perfect time to say thank you to all those who call the Niswonger Performing Arts Center their home for volunteering and choice for entertainment.

Merry Christmas to all of you and a very Happy New Year!  We look forward to seeing you next year.


POSTED: 12/20/17 at 12:49 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

There has certainly been no shortage of great Christmas shows and concerts in the Van Wert area this season. In addition to the wonderful concerts at the Niswonger, the Civic Theatre, and local school music programs, soon our churches will be presenting the true message of Christmas. I hope you have been able to enjoy many of these fine presentations and that they have brought the spirit of Christmas into your heart.

One concert I haven’t spoken much about is the Michael W. Smith Christmas concert, with guest Jordan Smith and accompanied by the Lima Symphony Orchestra. The concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 14. I haven’t really talked much about it because we haven’t had any tickets to sell for some time. The reaction to this concert was exciting as soon as it was announced.

This particular concert I feel I can speak with some amount of authority as I will be performing in the symphony and have been practicing the music for the past few days. Many might feel a concert with a well-known, mostly Christian artist might be filled with strictly sacred Christmas music. I am not saying that the true message of Christmas — the story of Jesus’ birth — will not be prevalent, but you will also enjoy some very swingin’ holiday charts. It will be filled with Big Band swing Christmas songs as well as recent classics we have come to enjoy.

Jordan Smith is joining the well-known Michael W. Smith on the show and has a tremendous voice I know you will love listening to. Some remember Jordon as the winner of “The Voice” in Season 9 in 2015. The next year, he became the best-selling artist in the history of “The Voice”. Jordan has some arrangements I know you will absolutely love as they complement Michael W. Smith’s classics and cookin’ arrangements. And all the music will be made special with the orchestrations performed by the Lima Symphony Orchestra.  I think it will truly be a magical Christmas concert filled with everything you could dream of.

I wish we could fit more of you in the music hall, but we are limited to just so many seats. You can always check that day to see if anything has become available.  It will be a full house and Christmas will definitely be in the air!

But wait!  We’re not done. This Sunday afternoon, December 17, we bring one last Christmas Classic to the area with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This is an entirely new production of this beloved Christmas story about the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge. It will be a 3 p.m. show, so you should be out before it gets dark. A perfect time, a perfect date, a perfect story!

There are a handful of good seats still available, so contact the box office or go online at NPACVW.ORG and reserve your seat and bring your family to this one.  It will be a memorable experience you will remember for many a Christmas to come.

I know there are many special church services filled with music. We at the Niswonger have reserved, as we like to do, the last week leading up to Christmas for you to spend time with family and celebrate the birth of Christ in the church of your choice. I know there are many Christmas Eve services, but if you haven’t a place to go Christmas Eve night, my First United Methodist Senior Chancel Choir in Van Wert will be leading in a candlelight service filled with music, readings, message, and communion.  Nothing beats this sanctuary lovely adorned for Christmas Eve! It starts at 9:30 pm with beautiful Christmas music setting the tone, followed by the candlelight service at 10 pm.

Music makes the Christmas season come to life for so many. It’s truly a gift from God, just like His son, Jesus Christ — the ultimate gift.


POSTED: 12/14/17 at 10:08 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

There are many fine organizations, businesses, and individuals trying to do good things for the city of Van Wert. One of those trying to do good for our community is the Van Wert High School Class of 1968. Class members will be celebrating their 50th anniversary and would like to do something special for the city they grew up in, where they went to school, and some still call home.

The Niswonger Performing Arts Center is teaming with them to raise funds that will be used to put a beautiful structure in honor of their Class of ’68 in the newly created Franklin Park. Class representatives will be located in the Grand Lobby of the Niswonger during The Texas Tenors concerts and A Christmas Carol. They will be selling chances to win two Grand Series packages for the Niswonger 2018-19 season. Each raffle ticket is $20 and goes to support a wonderful cause. This past season, a Grand Series package was worth several hundred dollars and included over 20 events.  Imagine having two tickets for the finest seats in the house for some of the greatest shows and concerts in the region!

We at the Niswonger appreciate the opportunity to partner with the VWHS Class of ’68. We are pleased because we think what they are doing is accomplishing some of the same goals that we have — making Van Wert a better place to live, work, and play!

So look for the table set up by the big display window next to Entrance A of the Music Hall. Someone from the Class of ’68 will be on location to explain their project and sell you a chance to win two Grand Series packages to next season at the Niswonger. The season is not yet set, but you can bet it will be the talk of the town once we announce it!

I hope you took the opportunity to tune in the Hallmark Channel Monday night for the lighting of the Christmas tree at the White House. It was a classy event filled with music and celebration. I thought the best music came from the three tenors who will be in Van Wert this Saturday at the Niswonger. The Texas Tenors sang an arrangement of “O Holy Night” that would bring down any house. This was just a taste of what we are in store for this Saturday. Two shows will be given: one at 3 p.m. and the other at 7:30 p.m. A few tickets remain for the 3 p.m. show if you hurry. I am sure we will have nearly 2,400 people come to see the Texas Tenors by the time we are done. I hope you can be one of them!

What makes the Texas Tenors so wonderful, outside of their enormously talented voices, is that they are gentlemen. It’s especially pleasing to me to see good people receive the recognition they deserve. They have been successful, and yet the success doesn’t seem to have changed them one bit. They are genuine and gracious. They truly are excited to return to Van Wert and sing for you. I am sure their Christmas show, entitled “Deep in the Heart of Christmas”, will be a very special experience at the Niswonger.

We invite you to arrive in time to catch some of the Van Wert High School Select Ensemble Choir, directed by Miss Melissa Bloomfield. They will be entertaining everyone in the lobbies prior to the evening performance this Saturday with The Texas Tenors.

Don’t forget that the Christmas season continues on December 14 with Michael W. Smith, Jordon Smith, and the Lima Symphony Orchestra and then also A Christmas Carol on December 17 for a 3 p.m. show.

It has already been a special holiday time at the Niswonger and will be getting even better. Wear your finest Christmas wardrobe and enjoy a royal night or afternoon of world-class entertainment right here at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert, Ohio … where so many of us are working hard to make special every day!


POSTED: 12/06/17 at 8:22 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

Christmas has always been a special time of the year at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. This year is no exception. We got the season started with Kellie Pickler and Phil Vassar’s Country Christmas show this past weekend. Coming this Friday, December 1, is Rudolph — the Musical, and then, on December 9, The Texas Tenors come in for two shows.

With all these Christmas shows, we have received a lot of TV exposure. Kellie Pickler has already been the star of her own TV show and is working on a second. This Friday’s Rudolph show is seen regularly on CBS each year and will be aired November 28. I hope you had a chance to see it, especially with your children or grandchildren. It is a wonderful story that was made into a made-for-TV show in 1964. I know it’s meant for kids, but I still love watching it and I bet you do too!

This recent stage production of the beloved TV movie classic includes all the characters you expect to see, only now live on stage. Even Sam the Snowman slides as easily across the stage as Burl Ives animated character as he tells the story of Rudolph. I imagine most of you are aware, but the story of Rudolph was created in 1939 by the Chicago based retailer Montgomery Ward to help sell their Christmas toys. And who among us doesn’t remember how we used to anxiously await the Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog in the mail? What great days those were!

The music of Rudolph makes it a hit on another whole level. The many Christmas songs that are sung in the show have become classics at Christmas time. You will hear all those beloved classics in this stage production coming to the Niswonger this Friday. We still have about a hundred seats we can fill for this show. Get them now or take a chance and see if any remain that night at the door. And come a little early as the St. Marys Memorial High School Percussion Ensemble will be playing Christmas music in the Upper Lobby starting at 6:30 p.m.  They have been practicing for weeks and are eager to entertain you as you filter and mingle in the lobbies of the Niswonger this Friday night.

Another Niswonger Christmas show will have its performers featured this season on the Hallmark Channel on December 4. The Texas Tenors have been chosen to perform at the National Christmas Tree Lighting at the White House in Washington, D.C. They join the likes of the Beach Boys and Country singer Wynonna Judd for this ceremony. Check for an exact time on the Hallmark Channel.

The Texas Tenors will be performing in Van Wert at the Niswonger on December 9 for two big shows: 3 and 7:30 p.m. The evening show is sold out, but there are still a few seats remaining for the 3 p.m. show we added. I have heard rave reviews on their Christmas show and many of you know how much you enjoyed their regular show last year at the Niswonger.

This past August, these guys premiered their second special for PBS entitled “Rise”. It has become another big hit for them and will be aired on PBS station WBGU-TV this Thursday night (November 30) at 9 p.m. Check it out and then come to the Niswonger on December 9 to see them in person, which is always better! This time, the Van Wert High School Select Choir will be entertaining guests in the lobby, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

In the 11 years of concerts at the Niswonger, there have been only two or three performers who have been this hot with our audience members. We will have over 2,200 people between the two shows, many of them from out of town who will make the trip to Van Wert to see The Texas Tenors.

The final two Christmas shows at the Niswonger include Michael W. Smith and Jordon Smith with the Lima Symphony Orchestra on Thursday, December 14, at 7:30 p.m. This show is sold out. Michael and Jordon (not to be confused with Michael Jordan) both appeared on Sunday Night Football recently singing The National Anthem.

Our final holiday show is another classic: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This classic will be Sunday afternoon, December 17, at 3 p.m. Tickets have been flying out the door for this one too, so don’t delay in bringing the entire family to discover on the Niswonger stage the “Spirit of Christmas.”

One last plug is for gift cards for those who have perhaps never been to a Niswonger concert or show, or you know would like to return for one into the new year. You can get them for any amount and you just know it will be a pleasing gift to receive under the tree for anyone.

See you soon!


POSTED: 11/30/17 at 8:39 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving is one of my most favorite holidays. I think I like it because it is uniquely an American holiday. Many of you remember all the wonderful Thanksgiving traditions growing up as a child in school and at home. Cutting papier mâché turkeys out of construction paper, using your hand to trace a turkey, gathering with family, cooking a turkey and all the fixings, going outside to play football with the cousins, or staying inside to prepare for the big meal. These are all warm memories that are nice to recall and, hopefully, still shared with friends and family.

Thanksgiving is also special because it has its origin in who thanks was given to. People can try to rewrite history all they want, but I believe and want to believe that history is true. Those who settled our country were thankful to their Creator God for providing for them through exceptionally difficult times.

When I hear the song “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come,” I picture Pilgrims gathering for worship and thanking God for their bountiful harvest, which they knew could sustain them. We have it way too easy today. We have little want and don’t know what it would have been like in the early years of our country’s founding. That, however, doesn’t mean we can’t be thankful for what we have and for the blessings from above.  This is what Thanksgiving is all about.

This popular harvest festival hymn was even written by a minister named Henry Alford and was published in 1844. Alford was actually born in London and came from a line of Anglican priests. He was inspired with the words from two of Christ’s parables: Matthew 13:24-30 (the wheat and the tares) and Mark 4:26-29 (the story of the seed springing up without the sower knowing of it.)

As with much of our music in America (see “America”, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”) it came from Europe — in this case England. It has become one of the top three Thanksgiving songs associated with our holiday. It is probably the first one that comes to your mind.

There are many things to be thankful for. In my world of music, I have been blessed with a lovely and talented wife who plays piano. We have been blessed with three talented children who still love to create good quality music as young adults. I have been blessed to have had good music teachers who inspired me and made me love music. In high school, I had Jay Hall as a band director and Larry Schaufelberger as my choir director. In college, I was fortunate to have had Mark S. Kelly as director of bands at Bowling Green State University. I think much of my musical sense is from the inspiration he created in me.

I mention this because he is on my mind today as I write this column. Mr. Kelly, or “Chief”, as we admirably called him, just passed away yesterday (Tuesday). Chief lived a long and effectual life. He touched so many lives in the world of music especially and will be sorely missed.

Of course, some of you know one of his daughters, Karen Kelly, who taught many years as assistant director of bands at Van Wert High School. I doubt I would be writing this column today if it were not for Mr. Kelly. I am feeling very thankful today for having him in my life and making me into the musician I have become.

So, come, ye thankful people, come and raise your song of harvest home. We enter a wonderful season of Christmas shows and concerts at the Niswonger PAC. I look so forward to seeing you at one or more of our five events this Christmas season. May you all have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving. May you be surrounded with love and family, lots of bountiful food, and may God bless you as we enter the season of His son’s birthday celebration!


POSTED: 11/24/17 at 12:06 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

The Christmas season has always been a special time for the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.  We have had the pleasure of presenting some very special Christmas concerts over the past ten years and this year is especially exceptional based on the advance ticket sales.

The season starts Saturday night of Thanksgiving weekend. It was a late addition to our season planning, but one I knew we shouldn’t pass on once it was announced. Country artists Phil Vassar and Kellie Pickler are teaming for a Christmas tour and we were fortunate to land a prime date for them to perform at the Niswonger for you. There are currently 20 tickets remaining, so act now if you want to see this one!

The next Friday, December 1, we are fortunate again to have landed one of the most cherished Christmas stories of the past century: Rudolph: The Musical. This Broadway style stage show is a live dramatization of the beloved TV show most of us have loved watching year after year. The characters will look just like the animated characters and will include the music which became immortalized in our annual Christmas listening lists since its debut in 1964.

This is a very family friendly entertaining and lesson learning show that will warm your heart.  It’s the perfect show for everyone to relive those cherished Christmas memories!  Less than 200 seats remain for this one.

Back from very popular demand, The Texas Tenors now bring their “Deep in the Heart of Christmas” show to the Niswonger.  The first show at 7:30 p.m. on December 9 sold out long ago. We have since added a second show — a 3 p.m. matinee — and it is filing up quickly. If you call for tickets, ask which show has the better tickets for you.  Because of the additional show, we may have some seats available at either option. This is a hot one!

A rare Thursday night show on December 14 features another mega-popular Christmas show with Michael W. Smith and Jordan Smith and accompanied by the Lima Symphony Orchestra. I have a feeling this one will be an exciting, fun, and very meaningful Christmas show. This tour just began this past weekend in Omaha, Nebraska. A trumpet playing friend of mine flew out to Omaha to play the concert and had rave reviews. He actually said that Jordan Smith, winner of TV’s “The Voice”, is absolutely incredible. This past Sunday, this duo, along with singer Amy Grant, sang The National Anthem for the “Sunday Night Football” game in Denver. It was extremely well done. Unless we are able to release some performer holds, this one is sold out.

We finish this year’s extraordinary Christmas line-up of concerts and shows with another cherished Christmas story, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Nearly everyone knows the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his transforming experiences, as told in the 1843 original story. This is a brand new stage production for us and should be another great show to bring the entire family to at the Niswonger. It will share the message of how Christmas can transform people from a Scrooge to a lovable, caring person. It’s a story that lives forever and is still pertinent for us to ponder at Christmas and always. A Christmas Carol will be presented December 17 and begins at 3 p.m. on that Sunday. We then take a week off before Christmas for everyone to prepare their hearts and homes for the big day.

This is quite an extraordinary line-up of Christmas entertainment for all of us at the Niswonger. As always, we will be decorated to the hilt and provide many fun surprises in the lobby as you arrive. We want Christmas to be an memorable experience for the entire family at the Niswonger.  Here’s to a wonderful Christmas season filled with Thanksgiving, love and lots of music!


POSTED: 11/17/17 at 5:30 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

In light of last Sunday’s concert by the Canton Symphony Orchestra at the Niswonger, I’ve heard many compliments and questions. First of all, we were very fortunate to have been spared the tornadoes that struck some of our neighbors to the north and south. We heard the rain beat down on the roof of the PAC, but, thankfully, it was just rain for us. Now, to the concert.

The Canton Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Van Wert native Maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann, simply wowed most everyone in the hall. To start with, the music selection for the concert was superbly chosen for a Van Wert audience, I felt.  Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Symphony No. 4 are filled with familiar themes and lots of “bravura!”

Once the music is selected, it must be performed masterfully and with passion and power. The musicians of the Canton Symphony accomplished that because they are very skilled musicians. But I have heard very skillful musicians give lackluster performances, much like talented athletic teams not performing to their level. We saw that last weekend also with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Ugh!

The coach of the orchestra is the conductor. And in this case, the conductor squeezed every bit of passion from the music and the musicians. Gerhardt Zimmermann not only was in command, but knew exactly what he wanted and how he wanted it. The musicians reacted and played accordingly. I happen to think that the Gerhardt was especially just a little stoked at playing on his home turf for the first time.

I imagine most of you in attendance noticed that Gerhardt did not have a score in front of him while conducting the symphony.  Now, that’s a lot of music to have stored up in the noggin, but as Gerhardt told me, he has conducted this piece twenty some times over his career. Bravo to Gerhardt for an extremely passionate performance by his beloved Canton Symphony Orchestra.

Now, how about piano soloist Norman Krieger. He was simply amazing! He performed the entire concerto also from memory! That’s a lot of notes to remember, as well as nuances, phrasing, and on and on. He made that piano jump nearly off the stage at times, there was so much power and finesse. All the pianists I talked to in attendance were absolutely blown away!

The amount of time these musicians put into their craft of playing this music and mastering their instruments is nearly incomparable. It is truly on a higher level than we normally see around here. 

I was so glad we could bring Gerhardt home to honor him and give him the chance to demonstrate his skill and accomplishments since leaving town in 1963. Gaylord Saltzgaber is smiling at what his scholarship money helped bring about.

Thank you, Gerhardt, and thank you who attended because it was a magical time once again in the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert.


POSTED: 11/09/17 at 1:23 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

This Sunday, November 5, at 3 p.m., Maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann will take the podium in front of his orchestra for the very first time for a hometown audience. A 1963 graduate of Van Wert High School, Gerhardt grew up on Crawford Street, just across from the old Lincoln Junior High School. He said he used to listen to the beat of the high school band as a young boy when they would march up and down his street. He would dream of someday being able to be a part of the band. He would go on to play the trumpet, but was unable to march because of polio.

But talk about overcoming challenges, Gerhardt would go on to Bowling Green State University to major in music education, ironically with a scholarship from the Saltzgaber Music Fund of The Van Wert County Foundation. In perusing old Foundation board minutes, I noticed they awarded Gary Lee Zimmerman a $750 scholarship to BGSU on December 8, 1964. Now, 53 years later, Zimmermann will take the stage with the Canton Symphony Orchestra in the Van Wert County Foundation/Saltzgaber Music Hall.

The concert is a duplication of his Saturday night performance with the Canton Symphony in the Zimmermann Symphony Hall in Canton, Ohio.  That’s right, the Zimmermann Symphony Hall. Just three years ago, the city of Canton moved its symphony into a beautiful new facility named in honor of Gerhardt. This is what 37 years of loyal and talented leadership of an orchestra gets you!

Gerhardt was extremely pleased that the date worked for us because he really wanted to perform the fanfare-filled Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 for his hometown return. Also on the program is Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1; probably one of the most familiar piano concertos ever written.  You will hear it and say, “Oh, I know this!”  It’s been used many times on TV commercials and movies.  

I encourage you to get into your seats a couple minutes before the start of the concert at 3:00 pm for a special presentation we will be making to Gerhardt in front of his orchestra.  We want Gerhardt to know how proud we, his hometown, are of his enormous accomplishments in the world of music.

Gerhardt has conducted orchestras from Chicago to Atlanta and Warsaw to Paris.  It’s a very impressive career he has had and I am so pleased we can now, finally, include Van Wert to his list of performance halls.  With the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, we now have a hall worthy of the music he makes.  I remember the letter Gerhardt wrote when we were at the beginning stages of dreaming of a performing arts center.  This summer, I was able to show Gerhardt our performance hall and he was elated!  His last memories of a performance hall were of Lincoln Auditorium.

It should be a special day as we welcome home one of Van Wert’s finest and recognize his accomplishments in the field of music.  This concert is part of our Enrich Community Concert Series, sponsored by Unverferth Family Dentistry and Roger and Kay Okuley along with Central Insurance, E&R Trailer, Van Wert County Hospital, State Farm: Tisha Fast-agent, Taylor Auto Sales and Eaton.

The board of the Van Wert Area Performing Arts Foundation invites friends and class mates of Gerhardt’s to a reception in the First Federal Lecture Hall following the concert. Gerhardt looks forward to greeting classmates and friends he played in band with, and had such great experiences with, while growing up in Van Wert. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the box office or that day one hour before the concert, which starts at 3 p.m.  

One final note. You probably have noticed that the Times-Bulletin will start publishing only on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I am told this will not change anything on the Arts & Entertainment page. I will still be writing my “Music in Van Wert” column each week and you will still be able to read it on Wednesdays. We wish the Times-Bulletin the best of luck and are glad we can still get the word out to you via the Van Wert independent and the Times-Bulletin.


POSTED: 11/02/17 at 8:39 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert