The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, Sep. 19, 2014


Music in Van Wert

By: Paul Hoverman


As you know, we always look for ways to make your Niswonger experience just a little more special than the normal.  We are once again enhancing some of our performances with an extra touch to make them even more appealing and enjoyable.

Starting with the Annie Moses Band on opening night, October 4, we are pleased to announce guest singer Joshua Carswell has been added to the show.  He is a Michael Bublé style singer.  If you haven’t heard of Michael Bublé, he is a modern day crooner of original and classic songs, popular among young and old audiences alike. I think you will really enjoy Josh. Even without Joshua, the Annie Moses Band will certainly delight with its vast array of musical talent and styles. It is a production, as well as a concert, and one worthy of opening our season in a grand style!

Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary comes to the Niswonger October 9 and will entertain that evening with songs and stories that will certainly take you back to those enigmatic days of the 1960s, with all the folk songs everyone knows and loves. We have added a band that works quite regularly with Peter, called Mustard’s Retreat, that is from the Ann Arbor, Michigan, area.

In addition to the 7:30 evening performance, Yarrow will also be speaking and singing to school kids in the early elementary grades.  We have nearly 1,200 students from Van Wert, Crestview, Lincolnview, Parkway and Coldwater to hear Yarrow’s message on anti-bullying. He has become a national spokesperson on the topic, traveling around the country to speak at schools and conventions. Several organizations, businesses, and individuals have come forward to help provide this learning experience for the kids to attend. We thank them and will acknowledge them that day.

“Inspiration of Broadway” is a show that comes extremely highly recommended because the very popular Southern Gospel quartet, “Signature Sound,” has joined forces in a rather unlikely partnership. J. Mark McVey, who starred in London’s smash hit production of Les Miserables as Jean Valjean, will join forces with this dynamic quartet of voices to present one memorable night of inspirational Broadway tunes.

The Olate Dogs were a late season addition and will bring their amazing dogs from their “America’s Got Talent”-winning appearance to our Central Insurance Stage on Saturday afternoon, November 1. Tickets are already scarce; so don’t waste any time reserving your seat for this incredible show. Check with the box office now.

Friday night, November 7, will be a very special night at the Niswonger as the Van Wert Area Performing Arts Foundation thanks and recognizes an important individual in the life of performing arts at the Niswonger. In addition, student musicians from some local high schools will be joining the very talented and entertaining Dallas Brass on stage for a huge gala celebration. As a bonus, we have added vocalist Bryan Anthony, an outstanding singer with Big Bands, such as the Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. You won’t want to miss it!

Finally, we have added a female vocalist, Logan Brill, to Josh Turner’s November 15 sold-out performance at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. She is one of the up and coming stars from Nashville, personally selected by Turner to open for his Van Wert concert.  Catch her now, because before long, she will be a star!

That brings us to Christmas, and you can always expect wonderful surprises at the Niswonger during our Holiday Season. So, stay tuned and I will let you know at a later date of some of the wonderful things we have in store for you, our valued patron of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio.


POSTED: 09/16/14 at 9:06 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

“It is liberty set to music.” These were the words expressed by then director of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in 1891. The director? None other than John Phillip Sousa!

Surprisingly, “The Star Spangled Banner” was not officially signed into law as our national anthem until 1931 by President Herbert Hoover. However, most of us learned that Francis Scott Key is the one who officially penned the words to a poem he titled “The Defense of Fort McHenry.”  It was then set to music by John Stafford Smith, likely to the tune of “Anacreon in Heaven,” a well-known English song.

History tells us that 200 years ago, during the War of 1812, the Mother Country of Britain was ravaging the shores of the fledgling United States, where a ragtag militia of farmers and volunteers were defending. The mighty British Royal Navy was docked off the shores of Virginia and Maryland and had detained Americans on their ship to use as slave soldiers. Francis Scott Key, a 34-year-old Georgetown attorney and skilled negotiator, asked for, and received, permission from President James Madison to execute a rescue mission. While being forced to stay on the British ship overnight, he witnessed a horrific bombing of Fort McHenry. During the bombing, brave militiamen and women would replace others killed during the shelling, making sure the flag remained waving.

It was during this terrible battle that Key feared the flag would be taken down and the young nation would dissolve once again to the mighty power of the Royal Navy and the British Empire. Once the smoke finally began to clear from the relentless barrage of rockets and bombs throughout the night, Key looked toward Fort McHenry and was amazed to see the flag was still there, waving. With tears in his eyes and pride in his heart, he sat down and penned the words:

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?

And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave? 

It was 200 years ago in 1814 that Key penned these words. Little did he realize that he was writing the words to the national anthem for what would become the most powerful country on the face of the Earth. There by the dawn’s early light, a national anthem was born.

It was two years later that the Marine Band would first play what The National Intelligencer in Washington, D.C., would call “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  In 1891, the Marine Band took its first national tour across the United States and performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” at each concert for enthusiastically patriotic citizens. This is when Sousa remarked, “Besides its soul-stirring words … it is the spirit of the music that inspires. It is liberty set to music.”

Today, we honor our country with the playing and singing of our national anthem before ball games, ceremonies, celebrations, and many public gatherings. Those performing it should know, realize and respect the homage it truly is to those brave militiamen and women, for whom without, we would most likely not have the privilege to gather and celebrate with the freedom we enjoy.

We hear many renditions today of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but I find interesting the statement made by Master Sgt. Kevin Bennear.  He has sung the national anthem at July 4 celebrations, Memorial Day celebrations, at the Pentagon on the first anniversary of 9/11, at Honor Flight ceremonies at the World War II Memorial, and even on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football”.  He states: “Some singers might try to make it their own and embellish the music, but that’s not the point. When I sing other tunes, I can think about the notes and make them my own. But when I sing the anthem, it’s not about me. The purpose is to remember the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country; those who came before us and everything they did to ensure our freedom. We honor them.”

And today, we honor the anniversary of the words of Francis Scott Key … and the land of the free and the home of the brave. May we never forget this!


POSTED: 09/10/14 at 5:52 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

I just returned from Nashville this weekend and so have music on my mind; in particular, the Annie Moses Band.  They hail from the Music City (Nashville) and have been one of the fastest rising family bands to tour the U.S. over the past 10 years.  If you haven’t seen or heard them before, I really suggest you check out their promo video on our website (  You will be entertained just watching their short promo.

Mixing many genres of musical style such as classical, crossover, folk, Americana, and jazz, you will be thoroughly mesmerized and entertained as they take ownership of our stage.  The players in the band are all family members originating from grandma Annie Moses’ clan. Their show is not only entertaining, but also wholesome and heart-warming with a faith-based message.

Breaking news is that vocalist Joshua Carswell has just been added to our October 4 concert at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. Carswell has been explained to me as an outstanding singer in the style of Michael Buble. This will just add to the outstanding show of other vocals, violins (fiddles), cello, drums, and a whole family (no pun intended!) of instruments.  We hope to soon have video of Carswell up on our website for you to explore.

Tickets are still available for our season opening concert.  I had someone stop me at the fair Monday and said they can’t wait to get started with some of the quality concerts we have at the Niswonger.  I would agree!  And I can’t think of a better season opener than the Annie Moses Band that just got even better with the addition of Joshua Carswell.  Get your tickets now!

While I drove around Nashville on the various interstate highways that surround the downtown, I couldn’t help but notice all the pictures of Kenny Rogers. They were using him to promote the Country Music Hall of Fame. I suppose it caught my eye because it is the same picture we use in our promo of his December 12 concert in Van Wert.  About 80 tickets remain for his extraordinary Christmas Show in Van Wert.  And remember, he is bringing female vocalist Linda Davis with him. You can check her out on the web, too. She is quite well known for a duet she did with Reba McEntire.

The Olate Dogs are biting at the heels of The Temptations. Both are approaching sell-outs.  Remember, nothing stands in the way of you buying tickets right now when you choose a Select Series of three or more concerts. Our box office can provide you with all the details.

Thanks for stopping by our booth at the fair to talk with Jerry Beard, our box office manager.  It made the time fly by much faster.  We made new friends from out of town and created new ticket buyers to our performing arts center.  You will see them when you come to concerts throughout the year.

I just thought you’d also like to know that Van Wert got mentioned from the stage of the General Jackson showboat in Nashville this past Friday.  It just so happens that the emcee of the show that day was none other than Gary Jenkins. We have had Gary and his band in Fountain Park on two occasions. He is a very funny and entertaining musician. Don’t be surprised if you see him back in Van Wert with a very special guest and hometown music legend.


POSTED: 09/03/14 at 6:16 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

Today was partially spent setting up our Niswonger Performing Arts Center booth in the Commercial Building at the Van Wert County Fair. We have a nice location to greet you as you enter the east doors of the Commercial Building. You will be greeted by a large picture of Kenny Rogers as you enter the building. Betcha didn’t know Kenny Rogers was going to be at the fair!  Also on display will be Josh Turner, Sinbad, and the Newsboys.

These are just the big pictures, but you will also see some new video we have of the Annie Moses Band, which is very cool!  This band kicks our season off on October 4 and you will be seeing and hearing a lot about them over the next month.  This family band has a show entitled Rhapsody in Bluegrass and it looks very exciting!  Watch the video and you will see what I mean. These guys have been on PBS, performed in Carnegie Hall and on the stage of the Grand Ole’ Opry.  That’s quite a variety of genres and locations.

We will actually be selling tickets while at the fair. Kenny Rogers will probably sell out by the end of the fair.  There are only 127 tickets available as of this writing.  The “Gambler” will sell out soon!  Another show to watch is the Olate Dogs. It is selling quickly, with only a couple hundred seats remaining.

Last night, I was on my computer and I saw a YouTube pop up of Sinbad, the comedian. Sinbad will be here on February 7, 2015.  I was literally laughing out loud as I watched his stand-up comedy act entitled “Where You Been?”  I don’t usually laugh out loud that often. I think you will want to check this guy out and then don’t miss him when he comes to the Niswonger this winter. By then, I’m sure we could all use a good laugh!

Stop by and visit our booth at the fair.  We have a nice, comfortable area with lots of materials available for you to take with you and/or share with a friend.  Encourage a friend or acquaintance from out of town to visit us, especially those who have never been to our performing arts center before.  I am still amazed at how many have still never discovered the magic of the Niswonger before.

As a reminder, any show or concert at the Niswonger can be purchased now when bundled as three or more in a Select Series.  Some are available now as singles.  Stop by our booth and see how we may help you discover the magic of the Niswonger.

I will start reminding you now that the biennial performance of Handel’s Messiah at Christmas time will be presented on December 14. For those who wish to be a part of the chorus, rehearsals will begin Sunday, November 9, from 3-5 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Van Wert.  The soloists are all confirmed and I will be excited to share them with you in the near future.

After a short visit to Nashville to visit some friends of Van Wert at the Grand Ole’ Opry this weekend, I’ll see you at the fair.  Happy Labor Day, y’all!


POSTED: 08/26/14 at 7:35 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

I have always avoided grouping concerts in certain categories for fear of limiting one’s ability to make their own decision on likes and dislikes.  However, when we have a situation where some may get shut out of a particular concert they really want to see, I will offer some advice.

Last week I told you that Josh Turner tickets may sell out quickly once we hit the single release date.  Well, it happened in less than two days.  I see another situation looming that I want to make you aware of.  Another Country and Pop Music legend, Kenny Rogers is coming to the Niswonger for a big Christmas concert on Friday, December 12.  His single ticket release date is not until September 10, about three weeks away.  As of this writing, there are only about 160 seats left and we have sold 28 already today!  I think you get the point: if you want to see Kenny Rogers Christmas show in Van Wert, you might not want to wait until September 10.

Here is my suggestion.  We are currently selling Select Series packages.  All you need to do is bundle three or more concerts together and our system will allow you to purchase your seats today, guaranteeing you a seat for Kenny Rogers.  By the way, Kenny is bringing a guest female Country star, Linda Davis with him on his Van Wert show.  She will be used to compliment Kenny on the many hits songs he sang as duets with the likes of Dolly Parton, Dottie West, and Kim Carnes.

So, here is my suggestion.  If you like Kenny Rogers, I think you would probably like Home Free on January 31. They are a Country vocal band of five young men who won Season 4 of NBC’s “The Sing Off.”  Remember, Kenny Rogers started out as a member of The New Christy Minstrels.  Another legendary singer you might consider is Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary.  There are your three concerts to bundle together.  Buy now and guarantee your Kenny Rogers seat and save yourself 10 percent by bundling!

Another concert that is in serious jeopardy of selling out just happens to be our last concert of the season: The Temptations. Since “The Temps” don’t perform at the Niswonger until April 25, the single ticket release date isn’t until January 22 of next year. To date, there are only 240 seats remaining and we just sold 36 today. Good luck waiting another five months if you want to see The Temptations in Van Wert!

So here we go. Let’s see what else might be appealing to bundle with “The Temps.”  My first thought is Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. in their “Solid Gold Christmas Show” on December 19.  Not only has this couple sung their own hit songs, they also have a list of legendary songs from their days with “The Fifth Dimension.”  And who doesn’t like a soulful, beautiful Christmas concert six days before Christmas? I have been told by others who have seen their Christmas show that it is absolutely wonderful! Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on February 21, 2015, would also be a lively concert to bundle, or, if you are looking for some good laughs, consider comedian Sinbad.

There you are, my bundling suggestions that will allow you to buy now and avoid getting shut out of a concert in the 1,200 seat Van Wert County Foundation/Saltzgaber Music Hall this season.  I’m sure if you look online or in one of our catalogs, you may find your own bundle that will accomplish your goal.

Tonight, we honor nearly 200 volunteers who help run the Niswonger Performing Arts Center so smoothly, efficiently and in a friendly way. They come from all over the region and we appreciate their loyalty to the arts and especially to the Niswonger.  We will honor them at a banquet on the Central Insurance Stage, where we hope to enlighten and inspire them with a private viewing of the season video and share inside information they can share with friends and acquaintances.  Feel free to contact the box office for an application if you would be interested in joining a superb group of caring volunteers.


POSTED: 08/19/14 at 9:16 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

Each year it seems I am asked this question, “how could you be sold out already?”  This normally comes with concerts that the public finds most appealing. From past years, Kelli Pickler, Kenny G, and Marie Osmond come to mind.

Over the seven years of existence of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, we have created, learned, and tweaked the way we offer tickets to the public. While we are always looking to build our audiences and expand our outreach, we also wish to reward those who consistently support us.  Because of this, we release tickets in different ways at different times.

Many of you know that members, grand series, and select series buyers have already had the opportunity to buy tickets.  These are people who either monetarily support us and/or also support us regularly through ticket purchases.

Each concert has an individual release date attached to it.  Any remaining tickets that have not been “eaten up” by the aforementioned processes are then released for sale. This is typically 90 days before the concert/event date.

Many, especially from out of town, are surprised and sometimes dismayed that there are no tickets left when they call a few minutes past noon on the day of single ticket release. “How could that be?” we are asked.  Well, folks, this is the explanation.  And we try to get the word out to everyone, but some are just unreachable, so it seems!

One of our most popular concerts for this season, Country music superstar Josh Turner releases single tickets today and there may not be many left to purchase. By the time we finish Tuesday’s business, we may have less than 50 tickets remaining for the single release.

It’s funny when I talk to people who are dismayed they couldn’t get tickets; because when I ask them about three or more concerts I think they might also like to attend, they agree.  I then explain that they could have purchased them earlier and been assured of the one concert they are now shut out of.  Oh well … all we can do is keep trying to get the word out as much as possible.

Don’t be shut out of the next Niswonger concert you want to attend!  I encourage you to look at the entire season now and plan ahead.  Select Series tickets can literally be purchased right up until the last three concerts of the season.  And new this year, they can be purchased on-line 24/7. Right now, several others look like they have sold-out status stamped on them.  Kenny Rogers, The Temptations, and a few others are not far behind.  Some problems are good problems.  We are grateful we have the opportunity to deal with these kinds of problems from time to time.

I also want to encourage everyone to look at the entire roster of concerts and shows either online at or with our catalog.  There just might be several other events you might enjoy. For instance, if you love animals, dogs in particular, you certainly don’t want to miss The Olate Dogs coming on November 1. Take a look at their promo video and you will fall in love with these cute little critters turned superstars of the stage!  And the tickets start at just $10!

If you like a Broadway show, I highly recommend Memphis, coming March 28 and 29.  And if you love tap dancing, you won’t want to miss Anything Goes, our other Broadway show.  See what I mean?  It doesn’t take long to find three shows you are interested in seeing at the Niswonger PAC.  Buy now, save money, and you won’t be shut out either!

That’s my advice for the day. Thanks for listening!


POSTED: 08/13/14 at 12:00 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

It’s always a bit dangerous to offer a personal perspective of a current event that is controversial, but since there are some personal and professional ties, I will give it a (hopefully) unbiased attempt.  Many people have come up to me since the announcement by The Ohio State University President Dr. Michael V. Drake that OSU Marching Band Director Jonathan Waters would be dismissed.  It was just last year that Van Wert was abuzz that the OSU Marching Band would perform at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.  Add to that the fact that my son has just completed five years as a member of the band, and I suppose people feel I have some insight or at least an opinion.

In case you haven’t heard, Jon Waters was fired last week by the university because of a parent of one of the female band members complained there was an atmosphere of sexualization in the OSU Marching Band.  Feeling that the university needed to take action, perhaps for fear of a lawsuit, or maybe just out of a sense of dignity, the three-week-old university president made a bold move and fired Waters, who had been at the helm for two years.

In a 23-page investigative report released to The (Columbus) Dispatch, the public became privy to a culture in the band that has existed for over 100 years.  On the outset of reading the report, many would find the “activities” disgusting, juvenile and just wrong.  I admit I had a sense of that feeling as I read through the report.  After fully digesting the report and taking it all in perspective, I want to raise a few thoughts for consideration.

Anyone who has been to college and experienced any kind of organization, whether it be a team sport, a fraternity, sorority, or band, knows that when two or more are gathered, there is bound to be some tomfoolery.  To understand the culture of the Ohio State University Marching Band, one needs to understand the roots of the organization. The OSU band was established in 1878 as a military drum corps that provided music for military exercises. It wasn’t until 1973 that women were admitted into the band because of the passage of Title IX legislation.  Ironically, it is because of this that they now are without a leader. On the field, and while in uniform, this band displays the discipline of a well-oiled military machine; more so than any university band I have ever seen. As in the military, there are certain “things” that make it the “Pride of the Buckeyes” that it truly is.

When my son made the band (and a few others in our area who were fortunate enough to make this organization would agree with me), I was surprised at how much respect was shown by the general public to band members wearing the uniform. It was almost reverent. Not only was my son proud to wear the uniform, but we, his parents, were proud to walk along beside him. “The few, the proud, TBDBITL!” was an appropriate statement.  I soon found out how hard these “kids” worked to, first of all make the band, then to keep their spot in the band.

As with any organization where determination and discipline are a requirement, there seems to be a time when they “let their hair down” and enjoy the fruits of their labor.  Now, I realize that “letting your hair down” can be quite different for many people.  For those of you who ever belonged to an all-male organization and especially mostly adolescents, you have a little idea of what kind of tomfoolery goes on that I referenced earlier.  My son witnessed many things he did not partake in, and did not feel pressured into doing them. Many other proud Buckeye band members are now coming forth to defend the culture of the OSU Marching Band.  Many of them are females who either understood what they were getting into — a male dominated organization with military roots — or just knew and accepted that some of what they had to go through was making them a stronger member of the organization.

From the perspective of Mr. Jon Waters, he had two years to undo a culture that had existed for 136 years. As I have read and been told by band members, he made strides to correct injustices and to right the ship in a decent manner, given the politically correct culture in which we all live.  But two years is not enough to change a entire culture developed over 136 years. Could a statement have been made by University President Drake that they were going to work toward improving the culture by providing the needed resources? A staff of three directors and a couple graduate assistants were in charge of 225 band members.  How many coaches does the university provide for the Buckeye football team of approximately 100 members?

Well, I am certainly not going to influence anyone of their decision at Ohio State.  And I certainly do not agree with, nor condone, all the activities some in the band have been guilty of.  But there is one thing I don’t want anyone to forget, the Ohio State University Marching Band is still TBDBITL; fortunately or unfortunately, for many of the accused reasons. Let’s just hope that political correctness doesn’t destroy another proud institution and its onetime leader, who was making progress while swimming upstream!


POSTED: 08/06/14 at 12:00 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

It seems we just listened to Papa Doo Run Run in the park during the Peony/ArtRageous Festival.  And now we are about to hit August and our big finale concert in Fountain Park!  This Friday night, we are proud to present a totally new band to our area called Never Stop Believin’, a tribute to the band Journey.

As you know, we certainly try to offer a variety of music for many to enjoy during the summer.  I realize not everything is everyone’s cup of tea, but I certainly appreciate people’s openness to different types of music.

This Friday night, the music of the classic Eighties rock band, Journey will fill the air in Fountain Park.  If you are a fan of classic rock music, this is one you certainly don’t want to miss.  When you look under the heading of “genres” for Journey, you find rock, jazz, fusion, hard rock, progressive rock and soft rock.  Between 1978 and 1987, this band was one of the most popular on the airwaves.  Since then, their music has become perhaps even more popular and crosses generations.

Never Stop Believin'If you enjoyed the music of Chicago and the concert given by Brass Transit a few weeks ago, I think you will enjoy Never Stop Believin’.  Although the music of Chicago actually started about a decade earlier, they are cut from similar molds.  For those of you hard core Journey lovers, lead singer, Donnie Ferrari of Never Stop Believin’ will amaze you with his sound alike vocals of Steve Perry.  This is why I actually booked them.  They come to us from Florida and I think they will draw a huge crowd in the park.

It will be a lively night in Fountain Park as we put to bed our 13th Fountain Park Summer Music Series.  The Women’s Bowling Association is serving up the food and marketers will be in the park for you to enjoy browsing before and during the event.  Wassenberg Art Center has enjoyed hosting many after-concert patrons who wish to continue the night.  They will once again be open and would love to see you after the concert to have a drink and talk about the concert.

Could you believe last Friday when the Simon & Garfunkel tribute Scarborough Fair started singing Bridge Over Troubled Water, a rainbow appeared in the southern sky?  Proof once again that God does exist and blessed us that evening. Memorable!

Thank you all who have supported the 2014 Fountain Park Summer Music Series.  The Van Wert County Foundation is proud to offer these concerts for you to enjoy and we look forward to returning next year in the park.  Now, don’t forget that the Van Wert Community Concert Band will be in concert in Fountain Park on August 15.  I would love to see a big crowd for them!  August 8 is the Rib Fest, which is why we decided to end our season this year on August 1.  Many things are still happening right up until we open the exciting Niswonger season on October 4 with the Annie Moses Band.

Lastly, the news of the firing of Jon Waters as the OSU Band director is saddening.  We were fortunate to host them at the Niswonger last year and I may share some thoughts with you next week.


POSTED: 07/29/14 at 11:29 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

It’s been three years since Jeb and Joc Guthrie discovered Van Wert, Ohio.  These brothers, who hail from New Jersey, just outside New York City, fell in love with our town of Van Wert.  I still remember the letter they sent after their 2011 performance in Fountain Park.  They mentioned how much they loved the atmosphere of Fountain Park, the people, our downtown, its buildings, and especially the hospitality they received during their first visit to Van Wert.

The feeling was mutual, as our Fountain Park audience loved the music of the Guthrie Brothers who go by the name of Scarborough Fair — an appropriate name taken from one of Simon & Garfunkel’s all-time hit songs.  But then again, there are so many songs sung by Simon & Garfunkel that have become common folklore of American Music.  Just to jog your memory a bit, consider a few of these titles: “Sounds of Silence,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “Cecelia,” ”America,” “Feelin’ Groovy,” (I know, it’s really “The 59th Street Bridge Song”) “I am a Rock,” and of course “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” just to name a few.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Simon & Garfunkel, I think of their reunion benefit concert in September of 1981 in Central Park, downtown Manhattan.  They played for an estimated half a million people!  If a tribute to any performer was ever due, it would be Simon & Garfunkel.  And I can’t think of any better two people to give tribute to their music than the Guthrie Brothers.  I originally heard them sing on an Internet clip I was sent.  Since then, I have heard them sing in Fountain Park in 2011 and then again in New York City this past January.  Instantly, I knew it was time to bring them back to Van Wert… and they were willing, able and excited to return to Fountain Park to share some of the great music of one of folk-rock’s all-time greatest duos.

The concert is this Friday, July 25, at 7 p.m., and is free to the public. Just bring a lounge chair and claim your spot for some wonderful music under the stars.  If you come a little early, you might want to browse some of the marketers who will be set up surrounding the park.  They will be providing a variety of goods and produce including a large selection of cookies by Flour Loves Sugar — homegrown produce — artisan jewelry and crafts -fresh baked goods -homemade salves and lotions -snacks and more!  These efforts are coordinated with the Main Street Organization of Van Wert.

Bring your appetites with you, too, as the Veterans of Foreign Wars Men’s Auxiliary will be serving food before and during the concert out of the Rotary concession stand beginning at 5:30 p.m.

I thought you might find it interesting to see who is leading the PAC(K) in ticket sales for the upcoming Niswonger season. In first place is the Kenny Rogers Christmas Show with guest star Linda Davis. In a close second is Country music sensation Josh Turner and guest artist Katie Armiger, followed by The Temptations. All three concerts are more than halfway sold out by those bundling three or more concerts as part of our Select Series. You can do the same and reserve your seat before (and IF) remaining tickets go on  sale approximately 90 days before the event.  Call the box office at 419.238.NPAC (6722) or order online at NPACVW.ORG.

We have seen a lot of buying of Niswonger tickets coming from all over the region.  Our summer interns, Caitlin Hancock and Alina Osika, have been on the road sharing our upcoming season to people throughout the area. Remember to sign up for the opportunity of winning a Grand Series of concerts this year at the Niswonger. You can do this at the information table this Friday as well as receive information on the entire season.

I hear a lot of people say they have shared a catalog with friends and acquaintances from out of town. That’s a great idea!  Thank you for being good ambassadors for the PAC and Van Wert. We now have handy little business card size schedules of the upcoming Niswonger season you can pick up at the information table the Friday night too. Just another handy tool to pass on to others about the great things coming this year to Van Wert and the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.

I look forward to seeing you this Friday in Central … err, I mean Fountain Park, as we enjoy the music of Simon & Garfunkel.


POSTED: 07/22/14 at 3:24 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

The idea of sharing this information with you came to me as I was preparing content for the soon-to-be Niswonger PAC website.  On our new website, which we hope to unveil sometime next month, we will have a lot of new information for everyone to browse about everything associated with the Niswonger.  One of those items I have been working on is the history of Community Concerts in Van Wert.  I think it is something that should not be forgotten because of its significant contribution to the cultural life of Van Wert County citizens.

As you read this article, many of you will recall the names mentioned as respected and stalwart citizens of Van Wert from the past.  I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me.  My involvement with Community Concerts does not go back nearly as far as some of you reading, but I am taking from the history of the organization, which much of it was provided by Arla Allen, a long-time historian and respected performing art enthusiast and very fine singer of her time. Thank you, dear Arla!

The idea of a Community Concert Association began in the spring of 1953 when a group of interested citizens of Van Wert County met with a representative from Columbia Artists in New York City.  Community Concert Associations were springing up across the country with the idea of “providing a Carnegie Hall in every town.”  According to a Times-Bulletin report on Wednesday, October 21, 1953, that meeting took place and the following officers were elected to head the first Van Wert County Community Concert Association: Herbert Jones, supervisor (band and choir director) for Van Wert City Schools, as president; Mrs. James Johnson as secretary; and James Hall as treasurer.

The stated purpose was to bring a minimum of three concerts to Van Wert during the winter months and sell memberships in advance.  This would allow a budget to be set for purchasing concerts.  The original goal was set for 900 memberships, which was the capacity of the Lincoln School Auditorium.  A campaign week was set.  Headquarters were set up in the Hotel Marsh Lobby and a temporary telephone line would be installed for accepting phone calls for Community Concert business only.  An army of nearly 100 volunteers would canvas the area selling season memberships.  The list of volunteers reads like a “who’s who” of cultural names of Van Wert County from the 1950s.  I know some of you reading this today might even appear on that list.  After the campaign was finished, no more tickets would be sold.  Get them that week or be shut out for the year!  Once again, this was the one sure-fire way of setting a budget and guaranteeing no financial loss.  Oh, and by the way… an adult membership cost $6 and student memberships were $3.

The headliner of the very first season was the famed dePaur Infantry Chorus, which in years since World War II had grown to be one of the most popular concerts available.  Remember, this was before the Beatles and even before Elvis!  My, how popular musical tastes have evolved!

By 1959, it appears that the majority of the concerts were moved to the Marsh School Auditorium, more suited as a concert hall. It is also noted that the Marsh School donated its space to the association.  For the next 48 years, most concerts were held at the Marsh Auditorium, although I can remember presenting the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with famous trombonist Buddy Morrow leading the band in the Lincoln Auditorium, as well as a quartet of pianos who fit much better on the gym floor of the Lincoln Auditorium.  I can also remember moving one concert to the new Crestview Auditeria in the late 1980s.  And before then, it was stated that Lincolnview High School also hosted a few concerts.

So many wonderful people were involved in Community Concerts over the years, but a few certainly come to my mind, such as Mrs. Anne (Dr. Harold) Smith, Mrs. Robert (Joanne) Koehl, Luther Cox, Jim (VW Junior High band director) and Delana Galbreath, Jay Hall (VWHS band director,) L.W. Schaufelberger (VWHS choir director), Mrs. Edwin (Marilyn) Etzler, Mrs. Larry (Gloria) Wendel, Georgia and Orin Deal, and Rev. and Mrs. Kurt Bickel: the one who eventually got my wife and I involved serving on the board (back in the time, it seemed appropriate to list names under their husband’s names). There are so many others I could and probably should name, but the list goes on and on.

Today, community concerts live on as the Community Concert Series at the Niswonger.  Some things have changed, but the general premise continues of bringing world-class entertainment to the general public at an affordable price. The thing I love most about community concerts is that we can expose people to outstanding musical performers they may have not heard of, but really enjoy.  This is part of our educational mission of exposing new music to concertgoers.  A perfect example of this is the Habaneros from Cuba, a string quartet and clarinetist who will perform this season.  I really believe those who attend will be thoroughly entertained and feel educated and culturally diversified.

On behalf of the many citizens of Van Wert County and surrounding area who donated their time because of their love and passion for music, I thank you for continuing your support of Community Concerts in Van Wert.  Check us out at the Niswonger website: NPACVW.ORG or stop by the box office to discover the wonderful and entertaining world of Community Concerts at the Niswonger!


POSTED: 07/15/14 at 9:56 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert