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The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Oct. 23, 2017


Music in Van Wert

By: Paul Hoverman


“There’s no place like home.”  This conjures up many memories.  To me, it makes me think of Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other warm and loving family gatherings to relive memories and make new ones.

Perhaps one of the greatest family musicals of all-time uses this line and really is the crux of its story.  With all the great lines, story lines and scenes within The Wizard of Oz, the overarching message of the musical is sometimes an afterthought.  However, the message Dorothy leaves with us is that there truly is no place like home.  I believe it’s the last message she states at the end of the show.

Well, we’ve all seen the movie, but how many have actually seen the stage production?  Is it really possible to have a tornado, flying monkeys, a yellow brick road, a vividly colorful munchkin land, a melting witch, and so much more on stage?  Well, if anyone can do it, it would be Broadway!

This October 30 and 31 (Halloween,) this lavish production with Dorothy, Toto, and their friends the Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow will come to life at the Niswonger and amaze us with breathtaking special effects, dazzling choreography, and classic songs. All the songs and characters we love and remember will be a part of this national treasure on stage. This revamped production even includes a few new songs composed by the legendary Broadway composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Don’t miss the opportunity to travel “Over the Rainbow” in this spectacular celebration of the iconic 1939 MGM film.  It will blow you away!

With the timing of our performances and the immense popularity of the show, we are offering two nights for you to enjoy The Wizard of Oz at the Niswonger, Monday and Tuesday nights, October 30 and 31.  The length of the show is the typical run length of 2½ hours including an intermission.  We have moved the start time for both of these shows up to 7 p.m. so you can be done and on your way by 9:30.

Make it a special family memory as this professional touring production comes to Van Wert for two performances around Halloween.  Bring the kids and grandparents because I am sure it will be the talk of the town and region once you see it. So don’t miss out!  And remember: there truly is no place like home!  How true that is.

Before The Wizard of Oz takes our stage, one of the most popular soft rock bands of all-time, the Little River Band takes our Central Insurance Stage on Saturday, October 28, for a 7:30 p.m. concert. There are so many hit songs this band has turned out and are still being played all over the world today. Just to refresh your mind, here are a few: “Cool Change”, “Reminiscing”, “Lady”, “Happy Anniversary”, “Take it Easy on Me”, and “Lonesome Loser”.  Now you remember the band?  Did I name your favorite Little River Band tune?  If not, come and you’ll hear it.  Their music is some of my all-time favorites.

Tickets are available for both of these, The Wizard of Oz and Little River Band, either online or through our box office. Little River Band is coming for just a single concert and there are just a few seats remaining.  The Wizard of Oz is at a point where one show would nearly be sold out; however, when we spread it out over two, there is still a good choice of seats remaining for each one. Take a bird’s eye view of the entire stage from the balcony or get up close so you can see each character up close. Either way is a winner!


POSTED: 10/19/17 at 8:09 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

It’s another busy week at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. We are proud to be hosting the Ohio Music Teachers Association state conference this Thursday through Saturday. Nearly a hundred private and collegiate music teachers, students, and exhibitors will be moving into Van Wert for three days. During that time, they will be attending educational sessions, visiting exhibits, networking with other teachers, and attending concerts. They are staying in our hotels and eating at our restaurants.

We have conveniently scheduled a concert with the internationally acclaimed Five Browns; five siblings who all earned scholarships from the renowned Julliard School of Music as pianists. Can you imagine their home growing up?  Ryan, Melody, Gregory, Deondra, and Desirae became the first family of five siblings ever accepted simultaneously.

The quintet enjoyed their first wave of critical attention in February 2002 when People magazine dubbed them the “Fab Five” at about the same time they were featured on “Oprah” and “60 Minutes”.  The New York Post proclaimed: “One family, five pianos and 50 fingers add up to the biggest classical music sensation in years. … When these kids do Rachmaninoff, they’ll make you forget about Marshall Amps.”

Since their inception as The Five Browns, they have garnered extensive coverage from media outlets ranging from “The Tonight Show”, “Good Morning America”, “The Today Show”, and “The View”, to CNN, “Fox and Friends”, Public Radio’s “Performance Today”, as well as The New York Times, Parade, People, The Los Angeles Times, the Sunday London Telegraph, Entertainment Weekly, and now their return to the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert. Their PBS TV special, “The Five Browns in Concert”, aired on PBS stations all over the country.

Their return concert to the Niswonger will be this Friday, October 13, at 7:30 p.m. Five Steinway grand pianos are being delivered from New York City and other locations in the Midwest. They will be tuned and prepped for their Van Wert concert in the Van Wert County Foundation Saltzgaber Music Hall. Some of their music being performed will be from their seventh album released just this year with Grammy award-winning producer Adam Abeshouse.

When you attend this concert Friday night, be aware that the Grand Lobby will be a busy place, filled with exhibitors from the OhioMTA Conference.  Some exhibitors may actually be open for you to peruse and purchase gift items and print music.

A few select tickets remain for this amazing concert and can be purchased at the box office in person or by calling 419.238.NPAC (6722), or online at NPACVW.ORG.

Before we welcome all the teachers, the conference, and The Five Browns, we welcome CEO/Speaker/Author Stephen Harvill Wednesday (October 11) at 7 p.m. Harvill has been sharing his concepts and strategies with small companies to Fortune 500 companies. The theme of his talk at the Niswonger will be “Why We Love the Movies.” It is an entertaining and educational presentation that takes you through the elements of the movie experience discussing story, the narrative arc, music, emotions, psychology, and the after effects of going to the movies.

We thank Central Insurance Companies for bringing this incredible speaker to the Niswonger. All tickets for Harvill’s presentation are $20 and can be purchased in advance or at the door.

I hope everyone enjoyed “An Afternoon with Jamie Farr” as much as I did.  He was such a genuine and funny man. He still has a bit of Toledo in him even though he has lived in California most of his adult life. What a story teller! I was disappointed we didn’t get to see him act in Tuesdays with Morrie, but it didn’t take long for him to mesmerize the audience with his stories of his life, experiences, and friends in Hollywood.

Don’t forget about our big Halloween celebration coming at the end of October with The Wizard of Oz. This is a huge Broadway show that will entertain everyone in the family. It starts at 7 p.m., being that the shows are on Monday, October 30, and Tuesday (Halloween), October 31. You’ll love the music, the costumes, and especially all the glamor of the staging and special effects for this classic show everyone knows and loves. Two shows, so make your choice now while seats remain!


POSTED: 10/12/17 at 7:02 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

After easing into our new Niswonger season, we hit it big this weekend with a double header on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday, October 7, at 7:30 p.m., country music superstar Easton Corbin will take the stage.  But, before Corbin actually takes the stage, Nashville Crush, a very popular and up and coming country band out of Lima, is going to open the show.  We were fortunate that Nashville Crush could fit us in and they were very pleased to have the opportunity to open for Easton Corbin.

Known as a neo-traditionalist country singer, “American Songwriter” commented about Corbin, “He has one of those rare, glorious voices that was made — just made — for singing country music.  Rising to superstar status in 2010, his first two singles reached No. 1, making him the first country male artist in 17 years to do so.  Most recently in 2016, Corbin performed on one of country music’s biggest tours of all-time: Carrie Underwood’s “Story Teller Tour”.

Just released this summer, Corbin’s hit “A Girl Like You” has been rising to a top 20 hit on country radio.  Like many country artists, Corbin is a huge supporter of our veterans and soldiers and is also a big FFA supporter.  He even took a promo shot of himself wearing an FFA jacket, manufactured right here in Van Wert, Ohio!

A few tickets are still available for Easton Corbin’s Van Wert concert at the Niswonger this Saturday.  Belna Petroleum is the presenting sponsor of Saturday’s big country concert.  Mercer In-Sight Family Eye Care and Van Wert Family Eye Care, along with Betsey’s Boutique of Rockford and The Kenn-Feld Group, are supporting sponsors.  They all help make the tickets more affordable for everyone, to which we say a big thank you!

After a quick stage turnaround, we bring M*A*S*H* TV star Jamie Farr into town for “An Afternoon with Jamie Farr” on Sunday, October 8.  This is a 3 p.m. matinee show and replaces Tuesdays with Morrie, which was to star Jamie Farr. By now, many of you have read about how the producer of Tuesdays with Morrie failed to get work visas for the co-star and director of that show.  In today’s environment, unfortunately, one has to plan well in advance for such a thing!

Farr is filling in for himself by honoring his commitment to Toledo, his hometown, and Van Wert.  TV 13 of Toledo co-news anchor, Lee Conklin will join Farr on stage to talk about his career as an actor.  Most of us know Jamie Farr as that cross-dressing Max Klinger of M*A*S*H* TV stardom.  He was always trying to get out of the army by dressing as a woman; however, his hairy legs and cigar usually gave him away easily.  It was a farce that quickly caught on to the producers of the TV show and Klinger soon became a regular on the show. I’ve heard a number of you saying that you’ve been watching M*A*S*H* re-runs on cable TV and they have been featuring many episodes that featured Jamie Farr.

If you come to the show this Sunday at the Niswonger, however, you will be reminded or learn that Farr has also appeared with some of TV’s biggest legends on their TV shows. Legends such as Bob Hope, Dick Van Dyke, Milton Berle (I wonder if this is where he got the idea of dressing like a lady?) Red Skelton, Andy Griffith, Lucile Ball (Looo-ceeee!), Dean Martin, Burt Reynolds, and Bill Murray, just to name a few.  He also has numerous film screen and Broadway credits to his name.

It should be a very interesting and funny afternoon as we learn about who Maxwell Klinger was as well as Jamie Farr.  Farr has been married 50 years and has two children and one grandchild.  And as anyone who has ever watched a M*A*S*H* TV show knows, Farr grew up in Toledo and has long been a fan of the Toledo Mud Hens baseball team and Tony Packo’s, a Hungarian restaurant founded in the Hungarian neighborhood of Toledo.

“If you’re ever in Toledo, Ohio, on the Hungarian side of town, Tony Packo’s got the greatest Hungarian hot dogs” quipped Farr in a 1976 episode of M*A*S*H*.  The rest became history and put Tony Packo’s Restaurant on the map internationally.

We will get to hear all about his growing up in Toledo as well as his days in Hollywood and the many stars he has worked with over the years.  Have your questions ready as Farr promises to take some questions from the audience.  With a list of performers I mentioned earlier, I imagine Farr will have some stories he could tell.  Of course, the Q&A will come after we laugh and learn from his discussion, pictures and video clips.  Get your tickets now for this entertaining Sunday afternoon show.  It’s better than watching some football players take a knee during the playing of our “Star-Spangled Banner”!


POSTED: 10/05/17 at 7:46 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

You know the adage, “When you’re served lemons, make lemonade.”  Last week at this time, I wanted to share this information with you, however, I was scurrying to find some lemonade!  It was the next day that we squeezed the lemons, added a little sugar, and made that lemonade.

We not only had Tuesdays with Morrie booked starring Jamie Farr, but had sold tickets and even promoted the show with a community book read and panel discussion. The panel discussion of the book read was very enlightening for those who attended, but little did we know there were going to be problems with the show.

To review, Tuesdays with Morrie is a book written by Detroit radio broadcaster and author Mitch Albom. It is a very good and inspirational book. I was excited to bring the stage play of that book for our audience to enjoy. A real bonus, I felt, was that the lead character was going to be TV star and Toledo native Jamie Farr. Most everyone knows Jamie Farr from his portrayal of the character Klinger from one of TV’s longest running and most successful TV shows of all-time: M*A*S*H* (this was when a man dressing like a woman was still funny).

Farr had performed this stage adaptation of this best-selling book a few years back and toured Canada. The co-star was David Keeley and the director, Ron Ulrich, who are both Canadians. The U.S. producer of this show was a man named Bill Rogers. They were all planning to meet in Minnesota and start rehearsals for a 40-performance run of the show across the United States.

In advance of this U.S. tour, Farr had appeared on several TV shows and did interviews to promote it. Unfortunately, he discovered to his dismay that director Ron Ulrich and co-star David Keeley were never confirmed when he arrived for rehearsals in Rochester, Minnesota, on September 3. Farr and his agent learned that Producer Bill Rogers applied for work visas at such a late date that it would be impossible for the two Canadians to get to the U.S. in time for rehearsals or the show’s debut on September 25.

Farr had in his contract that he would only work with Keeley on stage since they had worked together in Canada and felt very comfortable on stage with each other. Based on this, Farr reluctantly had his agent pull him for the production. As they say, “that’s show biz!”  Farr’s intention was not to disappoint his fans, but felt he had no choice at this late date.

I found out about all of this just last week. We were in the same boat as 40 other presenters across the U.S. Venues were hastily looking for replacement shows they felt would work for their audiences.  As you can imagine, one of the shows was going to be at the Stranahan Theater in Toledo, Farr’s hometown.  We were going to be the next day because it made excellent routing.

With the many connections Jamie Farr has in Toledo, he agreed to fly into Toledo regardless and do “An Evening with Jamie Farr,” as he especially didn’t want his hometown left high and dry. I found out about this and got hold of Jamie’s agent to inquire if Jamie would agree to travel an hour and 40 minutes south and repeat that show as “An Afternoon with Jamie Farr” at the Niswonger.

After some discussion, Farr agreed to make a weekend of it and include us in the two-day mini-tour.  In this show, Farr will be joined by Lee Conklin, co-news anchor of Toledo’s WTVG Channel 13. I understand that Conklin and Farr are friends and work together very well. We will have our stage decked out in a nice set while the two of them discuss Farr’s career in cinema and TV and show rare pictures and clips of M*A*S*H*, giving hilarious and entertaining insight into this long-running TV show.

I feel very fortunate as there are 38 other venues throughout the country who are still trying to fill the void of Tuesdays with Morrie. Farr stated he is deeply disappointed he will not be able to be a part of Tuesdays with Morrie, but is very excited to meet the Toledo and Van Wert audiences and share lots of good laughs with all of us. At the end, he will even take questions from the audience. So get ready to have your questions for Jamie.  I’m sure his years with Alan Alda, Harry Morgan, McLean Stevenson, Wayne Rogers, and so many more will have Jamie filled with entertaining stories of his time at the 4077th. I’m also sure Jamie will enjoy seeing William Christopher’s (Father Mulcahy) picture on our Green Room wall.  Christopher starred in one of our “Church Basement Ladies” shows a few years back.

If you have tickets for Tuesdays with Morrie starring Jamie Farr, they will be honored for this new show.  It’s the same date and same time. I hope you can join us Sunday, October 8, at 3 p.m., as we make lemonade out of lemons with “An Afternoon with Jamie Farr!”


POSTED: 09/27/17 at 8:37 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

Obviously, I know we are still more than a month away from Halloween, but after last week, it was beginning to feel like we made a hard left into autumn. This got me thinking about a big show we have coming to the Niswonger over Halloween. It is perhaps the most known and loved musicals ever written: The Wizard of Oz.

Broadway is once again touring a production of this beloved musical most of us grew up seeing on TV as a motion picture. The Wizard of Oz, however, was a Broadway original appearing in the Majestic Theater in New York City in 1903. But it was 1939 when a young girl named Judy Garland stole our hearts as Dorothy and made “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” an American classic. The entire cast of this blockbuster hit was filled with superstars and America was introduced to the imaginary Land of Oz in spectacular color!

I imagine there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t know the story of The Wizard of Oz.  Most of us can quote many popular lines from the musical. Ray Bulger played the Scarecrow, Bert Lahr the Cowardly Lion, Jack Haley was the Tin Man, and Frank Morgan was the Great and Powerful Oz (as well as a number of other characters throughout the movie.)

There have been many remakes of The Wizard of Oz for the stage. Networks is now touring this spectacular production and we are fortunate to have it in Van Wert this Halloween. We actually have two performance nights: October 30 and 31. That’s a Monday and Tuesday night, but we have moved the performance times up to 7 p.m. so it is easier to see on a weeknight. Can you imagine the little Dorothys dressed in costume coming to our show on Halloween? Or perhaps someone may come as the Cowardly Lion or Scarecrow or maybe as a Tin Man. At any rate, it should be a really fun two nights at the Niswonger and I hope you can be a part of it.

The Van Wert High School Drama Department performed The Wizard of Oz a few years back and everyone enjoyed it so much we had people from Fort Wayne coming to see the high school production. Just imagine this show with professional actors, singers, costumes, lighting, special effects, and scenery. It will be spectacular, I’m sure!  And flying monkeys! Did I mention flying monkeys?

This touring show will make stops in Lexington, Kentucky, for five nights before coming to Van Wert for two nights. It is then off to the Carolinas before returning to Michigan for two nights in Flint and three nights in Detroit. You can see it right here in Van Wert, Ohio. That’s pretty cool!

Tickets are on sale now at the Niswonger Box Office and online at With two nights, we can fit well over 2,000 audience members in the house. It will be a memorable night as we welcome Dorothy and the entire cast, along with all the beautiful music performed live in the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio. Tell your friends and make a Halloween night of it on October 30 or 31. We’ll be looking for you!


POSTED: 09/20/17 at 9:06 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

From the title of this week’s column, you might think there are some concerts you should beware of. What I really want you to know is concerts and shows you should be aware of, because of their rising ticket sales. I know some people wait to buy their tickets until we get closer the concert date. We all have busy lives and sometimes we aren’t sure of committing to buying tickets just yet. The alarm I am sounding is for those events that may have no tickets available when you get around to deciding. I hate having to turn people away.

As of today, we have one concert that has sold out. That is the Texas Tenors Christmas concert on December 9. But the good news is that we were able to add another performance and so we have more seats available now. The second show is approaching 50 percent capacity.

The next one to watch is Olivia Newton-John’s concert on November 19. There are currently fewer than 100 tickets remaining. We have been hearing good news from Olivia in regard to her health. She recently sent a video saying she felt better than ever after receiving treatment. She is booking new concert dates and that’s a good thing for us and her. I’ve heard her live show is incredible!

A number of other concerts and shows are clustered together with about 150 seats left to sell. Those are Michael W. Smith’s Christmas, Little River Band, Cirque Zuma Zuma, Christmas with Kellie Pickler and Phil Vassar, Lonestar, MJ Live, The Five Browns, and Bostyx. Others are close behind.

On our Broadway shows, we are fortunate to have double performances of Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella and The Wizard of Oz. We are also seeing increasing activity on Rudolph and A Christmas Carol as the temperatures drop and we begin thinking less of going to the lake and more about the upcoming holidays.

One thing I notice is that there is such variety of interest from our ticket buyers. I really like this because we talk so much about diversity in a political sense, but don’t always think of it from an artistic sense. I really like chocolate, but I wouldn’t want it every day. Now I know that may not be a very good example for some of you who could have chocolate every day, but it’s good to mix your food … and your entertainment. At the Niswonger, we intentionally try to mix our entertainment so we can reach many different people and introduce them to our beautiful facility.

Our next and really first show of the year is the “B” Underwater Bubble Show on Sunday, October 1. We moved the start time up 30 minutes from our regular 7:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. This will allow you to bring kids and grandkids to the show and get them back home in a good time. I have seen the video of this show and talked with the show’s producer. Because of that, I hate to call this an exclusively kid’s show. It comes to us from Latvia and is touring the U.S. for a short timeframe. We are fortunate to be one of their U.S. stops.

Inspired by “Cirque du Soleil,” “B” Underwater Bubble Show takes you on a dreamland adventure where we leave our cell phones, time restrictions, and busy schedules behind. Mr. “B” will take you to a dreamland with snow cannons, soap bubble tornadoes, theatrical fog, gigantic smoke rings, smoke-filled soap bubble machines, and other such surprises. Combined with world-class wardrobe, artistic make-up, energizing music, juggling, contortionism, sand art, and dancing, you can begin to see that this show is going to be one for the senses and certainly not to be missed. The stage will be turned into a magical dreamland.

Get your tickets now, either online at, call (419.238.6722), or stop by the box office. You will be glad you did and your kids and grandkids will think you are really cool!


POSTED: 09/14/17 at 5:44 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

I just attended a meeting today with some very interesting and influential citizens of our community.  I met with panelists who will be participating in our Tuesdays with Morrie and Have a Little Faith book read, which will take place this coming Monday, September 11, at 7 p.m., in the First Federal Lecture Hall of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.

Our Speaker Series Committee arranged this event to bring awareness to some very interesting topics, one of which will be portrayed in the stage show of Tuesdays with Morrie on October 8. Rachel Rohrs, a teacher in the Lincolnview Local School District, has put together a six-member panel to discuss the two books afore mentioned. The panel consists of pastors Matthew Braun and Will Haggis, retired school teachers Nancy Wolverton and Kay Okuley, local mental health counselor Susan Burchfield and Beth Dye of Community Health Professionals.

So far, this is a lot of information you may or may not find that interesting, but I think you will want to come to this free event because of the content. Mitch Albom is the author of both books I have mentioned.  I would imagine some of you are familiar with this author who is also a sports broadcaster on WJR in Detroit.  He has over the years also written numerous best-selling books that deal with serious life experiences.  In Tuesdays with Morrie, this is definitely the case.

The stage play we will present at the Niswonger features TV and movie star Jamie Farr. Many of you remember him from the smash TV hit “M*A*S*H*” (didn’t actually mean to rhyme!)  In his role of playing Morrie in this stage production, you will get to see Farr in a much different role than you used to see him in “M*A*S*H*”. They tell me he still makes the show funny, although it deals with an aging college professor who is dying of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. You can get a copy at the Brumback Library or buy one at most book stores. I actually read it on a plane flight out to California this past spring. It’s a quick read, but one you can’t put down once you start. It will definitely touch your heart as the author tells of his experiences visiting his old professor each Tuesday during his battle with the dreaded disease.  He chronicles each visit and how he still learns through those visits with his old professor, this time about life.

I invite you to read the book, along with Have a Little Faith, and then come to our free book read discussion in the Lecture Hall on September 11. I think you will find it will penetrate your soul as our panel answers and discusses intriguing questions about life as it relates to these books. There will be time for audience participation throughout the panel discussion with questions. I am sure the discussion will bring up many interesting experiences.

It will also prepare you to come to the stage production on October 8 with Jamey Farr.  If you are like me, seeing a book acted out, especially with the likes of someone like Jami Farr, will make the book come to life.

You can get your tickets at the Niswonger box office, now open Monday through Friday noon-4 p.m.  You can also buy your tickets from the comfort of your own computer or smart phone by going to our website: NPACVW.ORG. Tickets begin at just $25, which is a real bargain to see a legendary actor like Jamie Farr in Van Wert.  Of course, if you are a “M*A*S*H*” TV fan, you know that Farr grew up not far from here.  He continually referenced his home of Toledo during “M*A*S*H*” episodes.  He will enjoy bringing this show to you in Van Wert!

If you are looking for some great country music entertainment, the night before Tuesdays with Morrie will feature country superstar Easton Corbin on October 7 at 7:30 p.m. Once you listen to his music, you won’t want to miss his concert too!

We are just about to begin our big 11th season at the Niswonger. Climb aboard and experience the performing arts at the center everyone is talking about: the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio!


POSTED: 09/07/17 at 8:30 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

You have probably noticed Fountain Park being cordoned off recently. I announced to the audience at our concert in the park on August 11 that work would begin in Fountain Park later in the summer. Former Van Wert County Foundation trustee and local businessman Mike Gearhart recommended this work before his untimely passing a year ago. And holding true to his request, the Van Wert County Foundation is working with the City Parks & Recreation Department to re-grade Fountain Park for a more enjoyable outdoor concert experience.

You may have noticed, especially if you arrive later than most, that the viewing of the concert stage is less desirable once you have to sit on the north side of the hill in the center of Fountain Park. Well, the foundation is working with Alexander & Bebout to remove the hill and slope the ground from the stage all the way back to the sidewalk in front of the gazebo. This should allow more people to have a clear view of the stage at the south side of Fountain Park.

In talking with former Van Wert mayor Stan Agler, he said that the park was constructed for viewing of concerts, but not to the extent of (the large crowds) the Fountain Park Summer Music Series concerts have drawn in attendance. We haven’t outgrown Fountain Park, just the design.  

Kudos to former mayor Agler for having the foresight to create such a nice park for concerts and other activities; however, we have outgrown the design. So now the Van Wert County Foundation will try to improve everyone’s concert experience, starting next summer.  

The project should be completed before the first snowfall this year. Unfortunately, a couple trees will need to be removed, but more will be replaced, along with some nice landscaping, to make Fountain Park comfortable and enjoyable for the Van Wert community — and the many visitors who come to our concerts each summer. Our hope is that ,with some time and good growth, we will have nice shade trees once again in Fountain Park. 

I am heading to a conference this week to start work on next year’s concerts. Hopefully by late winter, we will have another spectacular concert season to announce for Fountain Park in 2018. The concerts and new grass and design are all compliments of The Van Wert County Foundation and city parks department.

It won’t be long before we get the season started at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. We are gearing up for a terrific season. Ticket sales are keeping our box office busy and that makes me happy! Plan now for your next great concert experience at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.


POSTED: 08/30/17 at 5:21 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

Sunday at 6:30 p.m., five Van Wert churches will present Christian singer, author, and speaker Kathy Troccoli in a free concert titled “Comfort by Candlelight.” This concert is part of a tour she is doing across the country in a select number of churches. 

Her message of healing is compelling her to take a leap of faith and perform these concerts for a love offering. I responded to an email message from her management several months ago and we were fortunate to have been selected.

First United Methodist Church, 113 W. Central Ave. in Van Wert, is hosting the concert. St. Mark’s Lutheran, Calvary Evangelical, Trinity United Methodist, and Trinity Friends churches, all of Van Wert, have teamed with First UM to cover miscellaneous expenses and distribute tickets. Admission is free with a ticket, which may be obtained from any of the five church offices or by going to Kathy Troccoli’s website and requesting tickets through iTickets.

Troccoli, a Brooklyn born and New York raised gal, lost her father to colon cancer at the age of 15 and her mother in 1991 to breast cancer. I believe this has been a driving force for her music and ministry. Through “Comfort by Candlelight” she wants to reach people in our community who are hurting. It could be the loss of a spouse, a child, a friend, or any other situation life often presents to us.

Troccoli is an accomplished singer, author, and speaker who has won numerous awards in the Christian music world. She has won two Dove Awards, has 24 recordings, 18 No. 1 radio hits, and three Grammy nominations. Her soothing voice has allowed her to reach many genres of music including crossover hits like No. 1 “Everything Changes” and “I Can Hear Music”, which she recorded with the Beach Boys.

From serving in the mission fields of Africa, India, and Central America, to performing in front of thousands, to hosting 16 years of rejuvenating and relaxing cruises, Kathy enjoys using her gifts to entertain as well as embolden the spirit. She is now embarking on this tour of faith she calls “Comfort by Candlelight.”  A free-will love offering will be accepted as she feely ministers in song and word.

I am so pleased that Kathy chose Van Wert and that we have five local churches who are helping promote this concert of ministry. All five churches have their own congregations and their own style of worship, but are combined by the love of Christ to work together in bringing Kathy Troccoli to Van Wert.

Doors will open to the public at 5:45 p.m. with the concert starting at 6:30. Seating is general admission. I have had people from all over the state requesting tickets. If you know someone who could use 90 minutes of wonderful soothing music and a healing message, I encourage you to get a ticket and bring someone with you. We hope to pack out First UM Church for a wonderful eclectic evening of music and ministry. We are limited to a certain number of tickets, but I hope you can be a part of this evening on September 10, so get your free tickets now.

Another event in our community worth noting is Tuesday, August 29, at 7 p.m., at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. It is another free event for you to enjoy and learn from. Legendary film producers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have been working on a three-year project: a 10-part documentary called “The Vietnam War.” This will no doubt be a blockbuster documentary, to be aired starting September 17 on PBS 39 and all over the country.

We have been fortunate to have been selected as one of three locations to preview the film and discuss. A moderator from PBS 39 in Fort Wayne will be present to show a short film preview put together just for this event. It will be followed by a panel of Vietnam veterans and other select panelists affected by the Vietnam War. A Q&A time will also be included. 

Admission is free and will be held in the Van Wert County Foundation Saltzgaber Music Hall.  Many of us lived through the Vietnam War years and will have vivid memories, but it was the soldiers and family members who were really most affected. Come and learn about this documentary which will include never before seen video and pictures of the war. This will not be for the meek, but will certainly raise interest in this amazing 10-part documentary we can all view on PBS 39 starting on Sunday, September 17, at 8 p.m.


POSTED: 08/23/17 at 7:26 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

As of today, many students are back in school. Parents are probably celebrating and children are sad that another summer has come and gone. But this also signals the start of school marching bands and a new football season. 

Van Wert High School is a unique school when it comes to band programs. Since its inception in 1927, there have been just five band directors leading the VWHS Band. The patriarch is Leonard Wolf, who was there from the beginning through the 1940s. In the decade of the ‘50s, it was Herb Jones who led the band and choir. Then in the ‘60s through 1976, Van Wert native Jay Hall returned to lead the band. My friend, Anthony Alessandrini, took over from Jay Hall and stayed at the helm from 1976 through the new millennium. Since 2002, Robert Sloan has been the director. That’s just five head directors in 90 years. That’s pretty incredible!

Stability, along with excellent teaching, is what establishes excellent music programs. It is quite an enviable record, given the turnover at many schools. Even football coaches don’t last that long anymore. Those who have are most often successful.

Mr. Sloan and the current Cougar Marching Band, along with alumni band member Matt Alessandrini (yes, Mr. A’s son), have organized a special 90-year Alumni Band this year. As of today, the day before registration deadline of August 15, there are over 70 registered alumni. If you are reading this today and don’t want to be left out, you might call or go to the band’s website: and register.

The alumni band will join the current VWHS Band on September 1 for pregame and/or halftime of the Van Wert Cougars football game in Eggerss Stadium. Bands always sound better in Eggerss Stadium because of its concrete design. Musical selections were made from the Jay Hall era — “MacArthur Park” — and the Alessandrini era — “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. I even believe Mr. A will be directing this one.

An attempt to invite Mrs. Hall’s widow to return for this celebration sadly went awry when Mrs. Hall passed away just last month. Herb Jones passed away several years ago, but I was honored to have met him and talk with him in some length about his Van Wert tenure. Leonard Wolf has been gone for some time. His grandson, Doug Wolf, lives in Utah and is a retired music professor, but still performs with the Utah Symphony.

Alumni from the Jay Hall, Anthony Alessandrini, and Robert Sloan eras will make up this alumni band and you can come to the game on September 1 to hear the old tooters one more time!  It should be a blast (no pun intended). Nearly 150 band members will be on the field making music. People of all ages, making music together; this is why music is such an enjoyable lifetime activity.

Kudos to Mr. Sloan and Mr. Matt Alessandrini for putting this special 90-year celebration together. Here’s to a great time once more in Eggerss Stadium. Let’s hope there are many, many more!

On another musical note, thank you to all who came to Fountain Park to enjoy the summer music concerts. This Friday, the Van Wert Area Community Concert Band will be in concert in Fountain Park. It starts at 7 p.m. and the band is filled with alumni and youngsters who still rehearse and toot their horns and plunk their drums. I encourage you to come to the park one last time and enjoy their concert.

On the Niswonger side of music, Wednesday, August 16, marks the early release for tickets for Michael W. Smith’s Christmas concert. It will be December 14 and features Michael W. Smith, “The Voice” winner Jordan Smith, and all backed up by the Lima Symphony Orchestra. I have a feeling this will be a very special Christmas concert. The earlier release date was moved up by Smith’s management and booking agency to align with a national release of the tour. If you don’t yet have a ticket, you can get one from the Niswonger box office beginning at noon.

Many other concerts are selling at a rapid pace and it appears we will once again have several sellouts before long. And don’t forget about the added matinee for The Texas Tenors on December 9. This will be a 3 p.m. concert and those tickets are on sale now.

Music is certainly alive and well in Van Wert, Ohio; in our schools, in the park, and inside at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center! 


POSTED: 08/17/17 at 6:01 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert