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The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Jan. 16, 2017


Music in Van Wert

By: Paul Hoverman


As we approach the end to another year, it’s time to look over the progress of the performing arts business. We sometimes don’t like to think of presenting concerts as a business, but it certainly is one that requires a lot of planning, accounting, and strategy. That is part of what takes up a good deal of my time as executive director and president of the Van Wert Area Performing Arts Foundation.

We have seen tremendous growth over our 10 years of operation at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. When I think of our rather meager beginnings, it amazes me where we currently are. We had a partial year of operation in 2007 with an operating budget of around $150,000. I had a staff of two full-time and one part-time employees. We were reimbursing the owners of the building — Van Wert City Schools — $100 a month in utility use. This has now increased from $1,200 a year to nearly $40,000 a year for utilities, repairs, maintenance, supplies, inspection fees, and about anything else that happens in the Performing Arts Center portion of the building.

I only list this information to inform you, the public, where your ticket dollars, advertising dollars, sponsorship dollars, and other contributions go. As with any other business, there are costs involved in the operation. We are a non-profit organization, which means we aren’t out to make profits for our own personal gain, but we do need to meet our needs. And as we grow, so do our needs.

Our staff has now grown to five full- or nearly full-time, employees. That is still a meager staff to handle all the business we now find ourselves in. We do employ and use auxiliary staff such as bookkeepers, custodians, and lighting and technical people, as needed. Our parent organization, The Van Wert County Foundation, has been a valuable supporter in many ways. We are also so fortunate to have many kind hearted volunteers who enjoy serving and help us control our costs. I’ve said many times we just can’t thank them enough.

In all this, I have yet to even mention the cost of concert fees and other associated costs. Our concert fees have increased from $100,000 to over $700,000 per year (season). We have responded to public demands and desires, the need to respond to competition, and our own desire to meet our mission statement of providing a premier performing arts center for the region to enjoy. The cost of concerts many people desire to see increases our presenting fees seemingly each year. As an example, the last Broadway show we presented cost over $15,000 just in labor.

Managing the business of performing arts requires vision, fiscal responsibility, and sometimes restraint. We are so fortunate to have a crème de la crème gala concert to celebrate our 10th anniversary. It was a dream to have someone like Bernadette Peters for our gala, but then to team her with The Boston Pops, directed by Keith Lockhart, is simply amazing. Only because of the support of the three big sponsors: Central Insurance, Scott Niswonger, and The Van Wert County Foundation, along with support from the Kenn-Feld Group, are we able to bring such an attraction to Van Wert.

Tickets will go on sale beginning January 4 for the public to join us in this huge gala celebration. I hope many of you can join us for this once in a lifetime (well, at least once in 10 years’) experience. Get ready for January 4 and be among the first to claim your seats for this gala concert celebration. Sales begin at noon that day. We promise to make it a night we will all remember!

As we enter this new year, our goal is to provide enriching opportunities through the performing arts that will bring happiness to you and your friends throughout the year. Look for us to continue to grow, with restraint and fiscal responsibility, in a business that is exciting for the whole region. Happy New Year to all of you and may you be blessed with music throughout the year!


POSTED: 12/27/16 at 6:51 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

I just finished listening to a video clip the Niswonger marketing team sent out, announcing that Wednesday (December 21) is the single release of tickets for “Broadway & Beyond” featuring J. Mark McVey.  If you can take about four minutes of your time, I encourage you to click on that video clip and listen to Mark sing “Mary, Did You Know?”  It is an exhilarating rendition of this contemporary Christmas song asking the question of Mother Mary if she really realized the significance of what the birth of her son, Jesus, really meant. Mark really nails it musically and emotionally!

From this point, I could go off onto a sermon, or talk about the musical aspect of the performance.  I think I’ll leave the sermon to a trained minister. J. Mark McVey is not only an amazing singer who gained international notoriety as Jean Valjean in Broadway’s Les Miserables, but also a tremendous gentleman.

christmas-at-the-niswonger-copyI got to know Mark when he first visited the Niswonger in 2014 while performing with Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. It seemed like a rather unusual combination of Southern Gospel and Broadway, but it sure worked!  I was blown away musically, but also inspired by Mark after the concert. You see, Mark’s elderly father, along with a friend, drove up for the concert in Van Wert from West Virginia. We all met at Bob Evans after the concert for some coffee and a piece of pie. One thing lead to another and, before long, we were talking about how Mark’s father still sings in a church choir and how pleased they are when Mark returns to sing with them. It wasn’t long before Mark’s father told Mark he should sing at my church the next morning. I thought Mark would say he needed to rest before flying out, but to my pleasant surprise, Mark said, “I would be delighted and honored.”

So, the next morning, I just told our pastor at First UM that I had a special surprise for everyone. Mark is a truly Christian man and had a special song with accompaniment on a ZIP drive that went perfectly with our minister’s message that morning.  What a blessing!  Not only did Mark share a solo with us, but I was short on tenors that morning and Mark volunteered to pitch in and sing tenor with our choir. What an honor!

I have met many professional performers over the years in this business, but I don’t recall ever meeting someone so willing to share not only his musical message, but also give his life testimony.  It’s a little risky from a professional standpoint to do what he did that morning, but I gained so much respect and admiration for J. Mark McVey that morning that I booked him again. Actually, Mark called me up while I was grocery shopping in the Marsh Supermarket. We made plans right there in the grocery!

The result of that shopping trip and conversation led to the show “Broadway & Beyond” with the Heartland Chamber Chorale and singers from Fort Wayne. Robert Nance, producer and director of this musical ensemble in neighboring Fort Wayne, had been talking to me about singing at the Niswonger, too. I thought this would be a perfect marriage of performers.

You can be the judge on March 18 when you come to see “Broadway & Beyond.”  Take a listen to Mark singing on our email blast we sent out or just google J. Mark McVey singing Mary Did You Know.  I’ll bet you will want to hear him live at the Niswonger.  If you don’t already have the Community Concert Series, just buy a single ticket to this one.  You will be glad you did!

I can’t thank you enough for the enormous support so many of you have given to those of us involved in the Van Wert Area Performing Arts Foundation at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.  WE look forward to a spectacular second half of our season with concerts like “Broadway and Beyond” as well as others.  And don’t forget the biggest concert of all time: our Gala Concert featuring the Boston Pops with Bernadette Peters. What a night that will be! Ticket sales open up on January 4.

Merry Christmas to all of you! I hope the celebration of Jesus’ birth brings joy. I’ll see you down the road with the Time Jumpers and Vince Gill on February 4.


POSTED: 12/20/16 at 5:48 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

It has been another wonderful Christmas time at the Niswonger!  I know everyone really enjoyed the Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza. It truly was a wonderful Christmas variety show. Sandi Patty certainly didn’t disappoint, and Elf was a fantastic Christmas show, Broadway style!

Now, we have one more shot of Christmas cheer for you and it comes from singer, pianist, composer, radio and TV host, sports personality, and ultimate stage entertainer John Tesh. Could one person fit anything more into a life? Oh yeah, how about a John Tesh Big Band Christmas show at the Niswonger in Van Wert, Ohio!

Well, that’s exactly what will happen this Saturday night.  John Tesh will bring his band, music, personality, “Intelligence for Life” quips, and lots of Christmas cheer for you to enjoy before you start making plans for the Big Day: December 25!

John is looking forward to returning to the Niswonger where he performed to a packed house back in 2011. It’s hard to believe it has been five years since he and his band of great musicians played our performing arts center. People enjoyed his show so much that we felt it was time to bring his newest show back for you to enjoy.

Tesh got introduced to many in America as the ten-year host of Entertainment Tonight.  But he also was a sports announcer, covering the Tour de France and the ‘92 and ’96 Summer Olympics as well as writing the very familiar theme song for the NBA on NBC.  You would immediately recognize it.  He has had his own TV shows and appeared on many others and currently does a syndicated radio show playing adult contemporary music interspersed with commentary he calls “Intelligence for Your Life.”  He has a similarly named TV show I have seen on WTLW- 44 out of Lima, a good media partner of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.  In addition to all this, Tesh loves to tour his Christmas show and perform on piano throughout the year.  He even does Christian Praise and Worship music.

With all this experience, you just know we’re going to have a fun time Saturday night with John Tesh and his Big Band.  Believe it or not, one week from this Saturday will be Christmas Eve!  We tried to time our Christmas concerts so you can get filled with the joy of the season, but yet have time to make plans for Christmas gatherings and time with family.

About 75 tickets remain for this Saturday’s performance, so bring some friends, have a nice meal beforehand and take in one last Christmas cheer, compliments of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.

And don’t forget those gift cards for the music lover on your list.  They are really flying out of the box office. Once you introduce a friend to the Niswonger, they will thank you over and again.  We hear that story all the time.

I have to thank those of you who weathered the weather last Sunday night to attend our Messiah performance at First United Methodist Church in Van Wert. With snow and drizzle coming down outside, it cut the audience a bit, but a comfortably filled sanctuary experienced a tremendous and uplifting performance.  All the chorus, orchestra, and soloists made it: nearly 80 total musicians on stage. The musicians came from New York City, Boston, Akron, Perrysburg, Lima, Cleveland, Bowling Green, Minster, and other communities throughout the area. To those in the chorus, the four soloists shared that they thought this was one of the finest Messiah choruses they have ever performed with. Bravo!

It was a blessing to work with so many great musicians and create such an inspirational performance of the masterwork Messiah. Thank you to those who attended. I only hope you were blessed half as much as we 80 musicians on stage were!


POSTED: 12/14/16 at 7:17 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

If you have yet to get in the Christmas spirit, we have two events guaranteed to move you into the spirit this weekend.

This Saturday night at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center will be perhaps the best Christmas variety show you have experienced since the days when we all gathered around the family TV to watch the Andy Williams Christmas specials. You remember those days, right?  It seems the whole family would enjoy this Christmas tradition on TV together. I miss those days!

Well, this Saturday we are going to bring everything but Andy himself to Van Wert. Unfortunately, Andy Williams passed in 2012, but we still hear his iconic voice everywhere we go at Christmas time. Taking over his Christmas Extravaganza Show is Jimmy Osmond of the Osmond Brothers. A longtime performer and friend of Williams, he now takes this show that was so successful in Branson, Missouri, and modeled after the TV specials, on the road. They will leave Branson and come directly to Van Wert and then make just a couple other stops in the U.S. before heading to Europe with the show.  We are indeed fortunate to have them.

Many of you probably remember how Andy Williams basically introduced the Osmond family to the public back in the late ‘60s. Their appearance on Andy’s Christmas TV special has been shown hundreds of times. It launched the Osmond Brothers career and the rest is history. Another family of singers, The Lennon Sisters, had a similar experience on “The Lawrence Welk Show”. They were a young group of sibling singers, all girls, and had a blend that America fell in love with. Now, the Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza reunites these two groups to bring Christmas cheer to everyone fortunate enough to attend. Illusionist Rick Thomas Snow will be part of the show, as well as other surprise guests. And don’t be surprised if you still get to see and hear Andy Williams during the show. After all, it is his show!

The show begins at 7:30 p.m. and we are sold out. An outside chance of a seat not getting used is a possibility. You can check with the box office at 419.238.6722.

Although you can bet there will be parts of the Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza that will mention the “reason for the season,” if you want to really experience the real reason for Christmas, you need to come to First United Methodist Church the following night, this Sunday, December 11, for George Frederick Handel’s Messiah. This presentation begins at 7 p.m. and is free to the public.

Soloists are coming from Perrysburg, Akron, New York City, and Boston and they will be joined by a 17-piece chamber orchestra and a grand 60-voice chorus to bring the message of the birth of Christ into your hearts. Keep checking the media later this week to read more about this performance and its performers.

The Van Wert County Foundation sponsors this traditional biennial performance in cooperation with the First United Methodist Church. There will be a free-will offering taken, but there is no admission charge.  The sanctuary will be open to the public to arrive at 6 p.m. for the performance.

I’m sure I will see you sometime this weekend as we spread the joy of Christmas throughout the Van Wert community and beyond.


POSTED: 12/07/16 at 8:35 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

I have spent much of my day today working on getting Messiah music out to the many orchestra members who will be playing Messiah on December 11 in Van Wert.  This is the year a Messiah performance will be given at First UM Church in Van Wert, beginning at 7 p.m.  The Van Wert County Foundation sponsors this holiday performance through the Saltzgaber Music Fund, in cooperation with First UM Church.

For over two decades, a community Messiah performance has been organized, rehearsed, and performed biennially (every two years.)  I say community performance, but it certainly has a regional feel to it.  Most of the 60-voice chorus comes from Van Wert County, but we also have singers from outside of Van Wert.  The orchestra members come from all over the state, from Toledo to Cleveland and Springfield to Lewis Center and Bowling Green. Musicians will travel to play good music!

Our soloists come from Boston, New York City, Akron, and Perrysburg. So, as you can see, we have a national representation to our Messiah performance. Most have some kind of ties to Ohio and are happy to return to the Buckeye State and share their talents with us. I feel very blessed and fortunate that so much talent is willing to come together to present Handel’s Messiah.  What a masterful work and what a powerful message!

I invite all of you to First U.M. Church on Sunday night, December 11, at 7 p.m. for this inspirational and uplifting concert.  It’s an amazing experience to have the stage filled in a beautifully decorated sanctuary with a packed house.  Watch the news next week for more detailed information about our soloists.

The holiday entertainment continues at the Niswonger this Sunday night as Sandy Patti brings “Christmas Blessings” to our stage. I am sure it will be a wonderful Christmas blessing, as she has one of the most iconic voices of all Christian artists. Tickets are still available at the box office.  Call 419.238.NPAC (6722) or go online at and order your tickets. Doors to the lobby open at 6:30 p.m., where you will be entertained by the VWHS Select Choir. So come early and get into the Christmas spirit, even before the show starts!

Also, don’t forget about the Andy Williams Christmas Show featuring the Osmonds, Lennon Sisters, and friends. This show is December 10 and has been sold out for months. There could be some last minute tickets released, so consider checking it out that day. The box office opens at 6:30 p.m., one hour before the show.

We then finish the holiday season with John Tesh’s Big Band Christmas on Saturday, December 17.  A few tickets remain for this show too. Tesh is the consummate entertainer who understands the true meaning of Christmas and is looking forward to returning to the Niswonger and seeing you. You can catch Tesh on radio, TV, and Sirius with his “Intelligence for Your Life” show.  When not recording, he likes to perform on stage and make music with great musicians, especially at Christmas time!

‘Tis the season for music, inspiration and entertainment.  We have the answers for you at the Niswonger!  I hope to see you soon at one of our performances.


POSTED: 11/30/16 at 7:29 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

As nearly 1,200 people laughed and enjoyed Elf: The Musical at the Niswonger last night, I couldn’t help but think of the many people it took to put the show on our stage.  It was a spectacular show, with superb music, gorgeous sets, and colorful costumes. It’s a hilarious story about Buddy, the Elf, which also has many other sentimental elements to put one in the Christmas spirit.

Behind the scenes, many workers and volunteers started moving the show in at 8 a.m. and didn’t leave until after 2 the next morning. Four 53-foot semi rigs brought the show to our loading dock and had to be emptied and moved onto our stage and backstage areas to be constructed and ready for a 7:30 p.m. curtain. Workers were busy right up to and even a bit beyond our 7 p.m. door time. Once the show was over, our crew went immediately to work in undoing what they had just done a few hours earlier!

We were fortunate to have this show at our venue. They came to us after six days and eight shows at the Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit. After our one night stop in Van Wert on Monday, they were off to Dayton for five shows at the Schuster Theater. We are definitely running with the “big dogs” in the entertainment business. I know that many in our region appreciate coming to Van Wert instead of having to drive to the larger cities and fight the traffic and parking.

It is such a blessing to have so many dedicated people willing to be involved in producing a show of this caliber in Van Wert. Many had to be paid labor, but the ones who volunteer their time are due our deepest appreciation for the time they committed to making this show come to life on our stage for so many to enjoy.

This show was almost an exception in the amount of work involved, but we have three more Christmas shows coming this season where many others will volunteer time too. What a blessing all our volunteers are! From stage crew to front of house volunteers, to those feeding the workers (thank you, Kandi Saunier), we are truly blessed.

Up next is Sandi Patty’s Christmas Blessings on Sunday, December 4, at 7:30 p.m. Sunday night during the Christmas season is a perfect time to enjoy and be blessed with inspiring music from one of Christian music’s all-time greatest singers: Sandy Patti. This five-time Grammy Award-winning singer will soar your spirits as we draw closer to Christmas. Only about a hundred tickets remain for this show. The same can be said for John Tesh’s Big Band Christmas on Saturday, December 17; so don’t delay if you want to catch these shows.

The Andy Williams Christmas Show is tucked in the middle on December 10 and is sold out.

Now is an excellent time to think about getting someone a Niswonger gift card. Giving music is a wonderful gift to give at Christmas! You can get gift cards at the box office any time and for any amount you choose. Once we hit 2017, we have a whole new line-up of another 13 outstanding concerts to choose from. Our box office will be closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving so our employees can also enjoy being with friends and family.

We all have so much to be thankful; not to even mention that my Dallas Cowboys are 9-1 going into Thursday’s game with the Redskins. I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving filled with food, family, and fun!


POSTED: 11/23/16 at 7:43 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

This past Monday, Lincolnview Local Schools and Vantage Career Center board member Eric German provided a thrill for nearly a hundred local students. Germann was honored as the 61st president of the Ohio School Boards Association in a ceremony held in the Columbus Convention Center. Congratulations, Eric!  As a result of that honor, the Lincolnview High School band and choir were invited to perform on stage as part of the program. Mrs. Anna Baker directs the band and Mrs. Stacie Korte is the choir director.

I was privileged to attend as the spouse of the choir accompanist and also as a trumpet soloist with the choir. I couldn’t help but notice the wide eyes of these local students as they entered the big ballroom of the Columbus Convention Center. I know how hard they have worked, preparing for their performances in front of nearly 5,000 attendees with standing room only. Each group did their school, President Germann, and our entire community proud as they performed on probably the biggest stage of their lives! Kudos to the kids, their directors, and the Lincolnview Local School District for giving them all this wonderful growing experience, which will likely be treasured by all of them for a long time.

The Lincolnview High School choir performs at the OSBA Capital Conference in Columbus. (photo submitted)

The Lincolnview High School choir performs at the OSBA Capital Conference in Columbus. (photo submitted)

This makes me think of the tremendous music opportunities many of our local student musicians have had even recently. Although I didn’t have the chance to catch Crestview’s production of Peter Pan, I heard it was outstanding!  And I’m sure the Van Wert High School band students are still cherishing their recent opportunity to march in “The Shoe” at The Ohio State University. There have been and will be more opportunities to come for many music students in our community. Remember, the next person you might see on the Niswonger stage could be a local musician of our very own!

Ready or not, here we come! Christmas at the Niswonger starts Monday, November 21. Elf, the Musical moves in for a rare Monday night Broadway Christmas show. We are fortunate that school is out of session on Monday with parent-teacher conferences. It takes a lot of backstage area to produce a four semi-truck show like Elf, the Musical. We appreciate the VWHS music staff’s cooperation of allowing us to utilize some of their space to produce these large shows.

Elf is sold out and has been for some time. Check at the last minute, though, to see if any tickets have been released. We would hate to have any seat go empty for this great holiday production. Four 53-foot semi rigs will empty a lot of gear and staging for this show, including an orchestra pit of musicians. I’m sure it will be a production you won’t want to miss, filled with laughter and music.

This will certainly be a perfect way to get into the holiday spirit as Thanksgiving Day will follow on Thursday.  And then we all know it is full speed ahead into the Christmas season with “Sandi Patty’s Christmas Blessings” on December 4, “The Andy Williams Christmas” on December 10, Handel’s Messiah at First United Methodist Church on December 11 and then “John Tesh’s Big Band Christmas” on December 17.

I hope you can join us at the Niswonger this holiday season. Our newly formed Visual Arts Committee has the place already decked out in the Christmas spirit and we can’t wait for you to see their new work. We can’t thank these people enough!

It’s always a magical time at the Niswonger during Christmastime and this year will absolutely be no exception. The Messiah community chorus has had two rehearsals already and can’t wait to lift your spirits on December 11 also.  Give thanks for the season and let music fill your lives. You’ll be glad you did.


POSTED: 11/16/16 at 7:52 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

The weather is turning and so did our clocks … back! When you look at the calendar and see November, you know we are headed into the holiday season. One of the most favorite things of the holiday season for me is the wonderful music we enjoy.

The good thing about living in our community is that you never lack good music, especially during the Christmas season. This year will certainly be no exception. Schools will be presenting Christmas concerts with their choirs and bands. We have some very fine school music ensembles to enjoy.  And I just saw that the Van Wert Civic Theater is presenting Miracle on 34th Street this season.  This is certainly a wonderful story and we know the Civic Theater does an exceptional job.  We have some churches in our area that also produce good music about the true meaning of Christmas.

This also happens to be a Messiah year.  The Van Wert County Foundation-sponsored performance of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah will be held at First United Methodist Church in Van Wert on Sunday, December 11, at 7 p.m.  If you want to be inspired and exposed to some of the greatest music ever written, then you won’t want to miss this. We held our first chorus rehearsal this past Sunday and are off to a good start. The next rehearsal is this Sunday from 3-5 p.m. at First UM Church. Join us if you like to sing!

I will announce the soloists as we draw closer, but we are blessed to be able to have four very outstanding vocalists solo with the chorus and chamber orchestra. This is an opportunity to expose young people, as well as adults, to the Christmas story as told by a master composer who, I believe, was divinely inspired to compose this master piece in 24 days.  The hour and 15-minute portion we will perform took only six days to compose!  Try that someday … even if you have the capability. Every person needs to hear the “Great Amen” and the “Hallelujah Chorus” performed live at some point in their life. Here’s your opportunity: December 11, right here in Van Wert.

Now here is what the Niswonger Performing Arts Center is offering for your Christmas stocking. We start with “Elf, the Musical” on November 21. This is the Monday before Thanksgiving. We have one performance starting at 7:30 p.m. It is sold out, but you might check to see if there have been any seats released that we couldn’t originally sell. There could be a few.

On Sunday, December 4, we are welcoming back one of the most incredible female vocalists of our time: Sandy Patti. She opened our center in 2007 and is now looking to retire soon. She is bringing her entire family with a band to perform Christmas Blessings. And I’m sure it will be! A few tickets remain, but don’t wait long.

December 10 brings another already sold-out Christmas show to the Niswonger in the Andy Williams Christmas Show. Who among us Baby Boomers and older don’t remember the Andy Williams Christmas shows on TV?  They were a highlight of the TV Christmas season each year. Andy passed away just four years ago. He had his Christmas show in Branson, Missouri, for many years and upon his passing, his family gave the rights to Jimmy Osmond to continue the show on the road.

Two of the most iconic musical families, the Osmonds and the Lennon Sisters, have teamed to put this Christmas extravaganza together. They will be taking it to Europe, but before they leave the U.S., we were fortunate to get the show to come to Van Wert. A very good agent friend of mine pulled some strings to get us on the tour; unfortunately, if you don’t already have a ticket, you may miss it.  It’s been sold out for weeks.

But we are happy to give you one more opportunity to enjoy some great Christmas music with another one of America’s most gifted entertainers and musicians in John Tesh. Tesh’s Christmas Show will be a wonderful concert on Saturday, December 17. Tesh sings, plays the piano, and brings an outstanding band of musicians to swing you into the holidays! Get your tickets now as this one also is selling quickly.

So, there you have it — Christmas music for the entire season.  And, oh yeah, Happy Thanksgiving first! One of my favorite holidays of the year.


POSTED: 11/08/16 at 11:42 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

In 1991, Russel Maher replaced the legendary Larry Schaufelberger as the Senior Choir director at First United Methodist Church in Van Wert. Russ was working on his Master of Music degree at BGSU and was traveling from his home in Coldwater to Bowling Green on most days. Although his stint as choir director would last only two years, he did a number of aggressive musical projects. One of those was bringing back a community Messiah performance for Van Wert. Now, 25 years later (wow!), the tradition continues.

Messiah performances, whether during Advent or Lent, had been performed in Van Wert for years before Russ resurrected it.

Some older citizens recall it being performed even before World War II.  A couple constants have been that it was most often performed at First UM Church and that funding for orchestra (if used) and soloists was provided by the Saltzgaber Music Fund of The Van Wert County Foundation.

Mr. Gaylord Saltzgaber signed his last will and testament on July 17, 1929. He obviously had an affection for Classical music, as he left the majority of his capital for the “purpose of aiding and encouraging the production of good music, vocal and instrumental, for the people of the city of Van Wert, Ohio; to help especially among the poor folks, any who show special talent.”

He went on to state: “I express my opinion against jazz or any acquired tremulo (actually spelled tremolo) in the voice.”  We know that his second wife (first one deceased), Eliza, was a church musician at First United Methodist Church.

We in Van Wert certainly know the positive effect Gaylord Saltzgaber has had on music in Van Wert over the many years. It continues today through many musical efforts and projects throughout our schools and community, not to even mention the Saltzgaber Music Hall in the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. As the coordinator of performing arts for The Van Wert County Foundation and as choir director at First UM Church, I have continued the tradition of a Messiah performance in Van Wert at First UM. In an effort to not wear anyone, (singers and audience) out, I decided to do the performance biennially — once every two years.

This is a Messiah year. I believe we are all looking forward to this monumental task of putting together a volunteer chorus, a hired orchestra and soloists, and preparing for an inspirational performance during this Christmas season. This Saturday will be our first rehearsal for the chorus. It will be held in the sanctuary of First UM Church from 3-5 p.m.  I am looking for anyone who loves to sing, can sing in tune, and wants a thrilling and inspirational musical experience this Christmas season. The performance will be December 11 at 7 p.m.

We have a number of music books, so don’t let the lack of owning music be an excuse not to sing. Some communities do a Messiah sing where anyone can just show up and sing it on the same day. We prepare our chorus over six weeks and expect it to be a polished performance by volunteer singers with a professional orchestra and soloists. You do not have to be the world’s best singer (although we wouldn’t turn him or her away), but just a willing singer who would like to join the ranks of a mighty chorus.

Once you experience it, you will want to return. The thrill of singing Handel’s “Great Amen” and “Hallelujah Chorus” with all your fellow chorus members, an orchestra, pipe organ, and four professional voices joining in, is a memory you will never forget!

After this Saturday’s rehearsal, we will have Sunday afternoon rehearsals, beginning November 13, from 3-5 p.m. until the December performance. We welcome anyone high school age and above. I hope you will consider joining us and discover the joy and thrill of having the Messiah in your Christmas plans this year!


POSTED: 11/02/16 at 6:14 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

Those of you who attend concerts at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center probably hear me, or someone in my stead, thank our sponsors, underwriters, members, etc.  As I walk off stage, I am often thinking, I hope people realize how much we appreciate their support, and how much the audience should appreciate their support.

We certainly don’t take support, whether it’s underwriting, memberships, or even advertisers lightly. We realize that each business or individual has many options on how to spend their money. We try to offer opportunities we feel will benefit that contributor and make it a positive investment for them.

It is because of these extra revenues streaming into the Niswonger that allow you, the customer to pay less for your ticket. It also allows us to do extra things to enhance your concert experience, both on the stage and before you even get into the performance hall. I can’t tell you the number of times we have been able to add to a concert because of the extra contributions we have received. That could be adding more musicians to make the concert more exciting and enjoyable, or adding more production elements which enhance the experience.

We have been fortunate to have season sponsors, presenting sponsors, supporting sponsors, members, advertisers, and other contributors. This season, we have three season sponsors: StateWide Ford, Van Wert Federal Savings Bank, and Chuck and Karen Koch. They receive recognition at each concert, but I also hope you keep them in mind when you need their services. Although they do it out of the kindness of their heart for the fact they want to enrich our community, they are only able to do it when they receive business. You can thank a sponsor by saying thanks in many ways. And if one of those is by purchasing a product from them, please let them know you appreciate what they do for you at the Niswonger.

We are now at a point where our contributors provide nearly two–thirds of our operating budget. That is a huge contribution that we are so grateful for. Many non-profit centers like ours actually operate on even a higher contributions level. I do take pride in the fact that our ticket buyers still make up the majority of our budget. I think that keeps a performing arts organization like ours vibrant. After all, it’s the patron in the seat that performers are actually playing and singing for, so we thank you as well.

We have had several individuals, as well as businesses and corporations, who have asked how they can be involved in the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. We would be glad to talk with anyone wishing to partner and team with us in the future. It will only make us even better. Feel free to contact me or my marketing team at the Niswonger to see how you can be more involved. Some have seen me in the lobby and asked me how they can support a certain concert or season. I am always happy to talk to you about this.

The Van Wert Area Performing Arts Foundation is in its 10th year of operating the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. We have been truly blessed in so many ways with the support of contributors and patrons. We will never take it for granted and hope it is always a win-win situation for the contributor, the ticket buyer, and our organization.

I just have to mention what a privilege it was to present Doc Severinsen in concert this past Sunday night. Doc is 89 years old and I just knew good things don’t last forever. But in Doc’s case, I think if you were in attendance, you saw that some things last longer than others. What a vibrant 89-year-old performer! He rides horses and works out regularly, in addition to practicing at least two hours every day … still!

Up next is Country Music award-winning band Diamond Rio. They will be in concert this Saturday, October 29, at 7:30 p.m. I had actually forgotten that they had once been called the Tennessee River Boys and Van Wert’s own Mel Deal used to play with them quite often. As The Tennessee River Boys, they once performed at the Marsh Foundation as part of our Community Concert Series.

Since changing their name in 1991, they have taken Country Music by storm, winning many Country Music Awards, as well as a Grammy. A few tickets remain, but we expect a very full house. Don’t wait too long!  I’ll see you Saturday night.


POSTED: 10/26/16 at 6:00 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert