Music in Van Wert
By: Paul Hoverman
This Sunday afternoon (3 p.m.), March 9, the Niswonger Performing Arts Center features two local singers sharing their talents with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. Most of us have heard that an expert is someone from at least 50 miles away. What we in the rural areas of the Midwest sometimes forget to consider is that we have some extremely talented people too! This Sunday will prove my point.
When the Toledo Symphony called me last year with the idea of returning to the Niswonger to perform, we talked about several program options. Their Rodgers & Hammerstein program really appealed to me and our programming committee. Through conversation, I learned that they were presenting this show in Toledo at the Stranahan Theater this past fall and would be using vocalists to sing some of the wonderful songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Broadway musicals. When I heard this, I immediately thought about some very talented singers we have right here in Van Wert: namely tenor Jake Wilder and soprano Mary Ann Falk.
Wilder is a young man who attended Lincolnview Local Schools and graduated from Van Wert High School. Wilder, a naturally talented kid who performed in our Young Artist Recitals, as well as school and community programs, decided to further his music singing studies at Bowling Green State University. While there, he made quite a name for himself throughout northwest Ohio and southern Michigan, singing in the Toledo and Detroit areas. He also won numerous vocal contests in an extremely competitive School of Music at BGSU.
He decided to return home for a while and work to earn money until deciding his next step in the music world. Although Van Wert may not offer as many opportunities as many larger metropolitan areas, we have created many musical opportunities for him. He has been active singing and leading worship at First United Methodist Church on a regular basis and has also lent his voice and keyboard skills to other churches in the area. He has also been singing at the Black Swamp Bistro restaurant and now can be heard entertaining at Willow Bend Country Club. He has also been in great demand as a soloist for local and regional performances, and it was a no-brainer to ask Jake to sing with the Toledo Symphony.
Every good musical, and especially Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, must have a dashing tenor and a lovely soprano as well. It didn’t take long for me to think of a local soprano who could fit the bill and who knew theater music so well. The daughter of Arla Allen, Mary Ann Falk, came to my mind immediately. Inheriting a beautiful and powerful soprano voice from her mother, Mary Ann chose to become an educator and teaches English at Vantage Career Center. However, it is her singing that I and our community have been the fortunate recipients of.
Mary Ann also attended BGSU and sang in choirs while a student. I am sure she had some thrilling musical experiences and great instruction while in college, but she chose to make her vocation in education and make music an avocation.
She does as well at her avocation, as she does in her vocation. Anyone who has been a regular attender of Van Wert Civic Theatre productions has probably heard Mary Ann sing, as well as see her acting ability. The best (musical) deal of my life occurred when I agreed to play for Mary Ann’s wedding several years ago in return for her singing in my church choir. I always say it’s the gift that keeps giving and giving.
Mary Ann and her mother started singing in the choir at First U.M. in Van Wert and we have all been blessed many times over. It was also a no-brainer to ask Mary Ann to sing with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra.
This Sunday, as part of the Community Concert Series at the Niswonger, these two local talents will share their voices on some of the loveliest music ever written for the theater stage and perhaps of all time. I invite you to this Sunday afternoon concert at the PAC. About 150 seats are available, so don’t delay. A big audience will gather at 3 p.m. this Sunday to witness that Van Wert has super talent right here among us.
Before I go, allow me to remind non-profit organizations wishing to serve food at Fountain Park Summer Music Series concerts to get their information to me by March 31. The lottery will be held April 1. Yes, we will have a summer (I think?).
It seems funny that we are just finishing up the month of February, yet there is so much going on. We are looking forward to a fun concert with The Spinners this Saturday night at the Niswonger, and then two local talents as featured soloists with the Toledo Symphony singing the music of Rogers & Hammerstein the following week.
Then, it seems we are on the downward slope of entertainment, but still have nine more performances remaining this season.
While all this is going on, we are putting the finishing touches on a brand new season for 2014-15. We have our work cut out for us, because this season has been so phenomenal, but I enjoy a good challenge.
Meanwhile, the summer is quickly approaching and I am thinking about music in Fountain Park. The recent sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures that have flirted with our senses may have put some of you in the mood for some outside barbecue, lawn chairs, blankets, and fun music. Even with everything going on, I have certainly been thinking along those lines. As a matter of fact, our office will begin accepting names of non-profit organizations interested in being considered to serve food in Fountain Park for the concerts. Email me at email@example.com, call our office at 419.238.1743, or stop by at The Van Wert County Foundation to include your name in the April 1 lottery. Be sure to include the name of your organization (non-profits only), contact person, phone number and email address. And remember: if you were chosen last year, you need to take one year off.
By the middle of next month (March), I hope to announce the complete 2014 Fountain Park Summer Music Series. I hope to have some good and exciting surprises in this year’s line-up. Seven Van Wert County Foundation-sponsored concerts will be performed on Friday nights, starting June 6 through the beginning of August. Watch for that forthcoming announcement.
Just to let you know how Niswonger ticket sales are going, the Rogers & Hammerstein concert with the Toledo Symphony featuring soprano Mary Ann Falk and tenor Jake Wilder, is nearing a sellout, as is the afternoon performance of the Church Basement Ladies play on March 23. Jungle Jack Hanna is already sold out and tickets for the children’s show, Dinosaur Train-Live!, are going quickly. Call or check the box office for details. They are happy to assist you.
In the meantime, we’ll keep the plates spinning and hopefully continue the good work of providing good music and entertainment for the good people of Van Wert (and beyond).
The “Big O” may have different meanings to different people. To me, the “Big O” makes me think of basketball legend Oscar Robertson. But to most of our friends in the farming community and those who have listened to radio over the last 50 plus years, there is only one “Big O” and that is Orion Samuelson.
Orion Samuelson is that trusted, rich, baritone voice heard on the radio since 1960 over WGN in Chicago, providing the Midwest farmer with agricultural news and information. Why- just saying that last phrase, one can almost hear his voice. It is so recognizable.
Samuelson is without doubt the best-known agricultural broadcaster in the country. Born on a dairy farm near La Crosse, Wis., Samuelson considered becoming a Lutheran pastor before deciding on six months of radio school instead. Today, Samuelson is heard over a syndicate of 260 stations airing his “National Farm Report” daily and with “Samuelson Sez”, a weekly series allowing him to offer opinions and observations on the agricultural community. Since 1975, he has produced and hosted U.S. Farm Report, a weekly television program seen on 190 Midwest stations.
Samuelson has been the recipient of countless awards and honors including the American Farm Bureau’s Distinguished Service Award in 1998; the Nation 4-H Alumni Award; and he is the only broadcaster in the nation to receive two Oscar’s in Agriculture- one each on radio and television. He topped it all off by being inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2003.
Our Speaker and Lecture Committee felt it was important to bring such an illustrious person to our region because of our deep roots and importance of agriculture throughout our area. I am sure whether you are a farmer or not, you will find the plethora of stories Samuelson can share to be most enlightening, informative and entertaining.
You can get tickets in advance or at the door Sunday for this 3 p.m. engagement. What else are you going to do on a Sunday afternoon? Football is over, March Madness has yet to begin and baseball is just getting started down south.
On the heels of Samuelson will be a concert on March 1. It feels good just to be able to say March! Maybe it will finally start warming up outside. Regardless of what the weather is outside, it will be “hot” in the Niswonger for this Saturday night concert when the legendary R&B recording artists, The Spinners come to Van Wert. With songs like “I’ll Be Around,” Rubber Band Man,” “Then Came You,” and so much more, it’s guaranteed to be an exciting night.
This one could yet sell out, so don’t delay on getting tickets if you haven’t already. Relive those great memories with the music of The Spinners. You know how a song can take you back; well this concert will take you back over and over again!
This weekend offers three entirely different events on different nights. It all starts this Friday night at the Wassenberg Art Center with the “Big Wassky.” What is the” Big Wassky” you may ask? Well, the invitation says, “Swanky snacks, swell swill, games, surprises and music. Tune into the new beat of Van Wert. Spiff up in your best flapper attire and join the rest of the cool cats for one roaring shindig.”
I hope you have had the opportunity to stop by the Wassenberg since its move into the old armory building. A lot of work has gone into making it a beautiful and functional facility for many versatile occasions. If you are looking for a Valentine’s night out this Friday, consider “The Big Wassky” at the Wassenberg Art Center.
By the way, have you seen the machines grinding up all the old concrete from the buildings adjacent to the art center? The gravel that has been created from the concrete will be used as a sub base for the parking lot that will be built this spring. Now that’s creative recycling!
Meanwhile at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center this Saturday night, Bob Eubanks brings his game show, “The (Not So) Newlywed Game” to town to share some laughs from the past and create new ones. Not only will this show be a great time, but we have also spruced it up with many exciting surprises throughout the night. Bring your date, spouse or just yourself and enjoy the many opportunities to win chocolates, flowers, and even a chance to win $100,000! That’s right, $100,000! Everyone attending will be given a ticket and some lucky person will have their name drawn for the chance to play a game with Bob Eubanks and win $100,000.
In addition, some lucky couples will have the opportunity to join Bob Eubanks, along with our celebrity guest couples, County Commissioner Thad Lichtensteiger and his wife, Deb, and City Safety Service Director Jay Fleming and his wife, Kim, in our own “Not So Newlywed Game.” Great prizes and parting gifts will be provided by Ace Hardware of Van Wert as well as Slusher’s Jewelry and Collins Fine Foods.
Look to have a great evening of fun at the Niswonger this Saturday. Be prepared to laugh and leave with smiles on your face as you celebrate the Valentine’s Day weekend with us at the PAC. Tickets can be obtained in advance or at the door.
Then, on Sunday afternoon, I invite you to First United Methodist Church at 3 p.m. for the 11th annual Young Artists Recital. For over a decade, The Van Wert County Foundation has been highlighting the finest school musicians in Van Wert County. They have all competed at the District Ohio Music Educators Association Solo & Ensemble Contest. This Sunday afternoon, we showcase the best from Van Wert and Lincolnview High Schools. Vocal, instrumental, piano, solos and ensembles will perform on the First U.M. stage for a hometown audience.
Come and support these young talented students. They have worked very hard preparing their musical pieces, received top ratings, and we now have the chance to hear them perform here at home. I hope to see you then. This is always one of the highlights for me throughout the year. Supporting young musicians is very gratifying. Many have gone on to professional music careers over the past decade we have been presenting this recital. Who will be next? Come and see!
If you are a guy and have a special gal you need to please this Valentine’s Day, I have the answer. Also, if you are someone just looking for a good comedy release in the midst of this treacherous winter we are going through, I have the answer for you, too. First Federal of Van Wert and the Niswonger Performing Arts Center invite you on Saturday, February 15, to “The ‘Not So’ Newlywed Game.” You will watch, enjoy, laugh and perhaps even participate and win some “cool” prizes, including the opportunity to win $100,000!
Emmy-award winning game show host Bob Eubanks will be coming to town to share some of the funniest “blooper” moments from TV’s “The Newlywed Game.” Eubanks will be providing commentary and insight on what happens behind the scenes of one of TV’s most successful and popular game shows of all time.
We have a couple celebrity guests lined up to participate in the “Not So” Newlywed game. Come and laugh with Van Wert Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming and his wife, school teacher Kim Fleming. Also see Van Wert County Commissioner Thad Lichtensteiger and his wife, Deb, as they put it on the line to answer Bob Eubank’s questions of the night.
Bob will also come out in the audience and select some couples to join them in rounding out the panel. Don’t worry, no one will be forced, but there will be enticing prizes and a lot of fun for those selected!
Candy and a dinner are fine, but good entertainment and laughter goes a lot further. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and you can still get some tickets by calling the box office (419.238.6722) or going online at www.npacvw.org.
It’s been a busy time at the Niswonger in the past three weeks with Kellie Pickler, the Cinderella ballet, and The Addam’s Family Broadway show. Nearly 3,000 people have attended these three concerts and each show has brought a different audience. We are regularly seeing people from out of town attending our concerts. This weekend will attract locals, as well as people throughout the region, as Community Health Professionals present its annual “Ohio Has Talent!” event. It all happens this Saturday, February 8, and it begins at 7 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at the Niswonger box office or Community Health Professionals on Westwood Drive. Come and support some talented performers as well as a super cause- the good work of the Community Health Professionals.
One last plug: this is for all of you who have had enough of this winter. The Lima Symphony Orchestra is performing this Saturday at the Lima Civic Center at 7:30 p.m. One of the pieces we are performing is Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Now, what could be more timely than to hear the music that will make you dream about the beautiful scenes and sounds of springtime in Appalachia? And to make you even more wanting, a big multimedia, three-screen picturesque presentation will accompany the music. Hang in there, spring is just around the corner. In the meantime, you might want to dream a little with the Lima Symphony Orchestra this Saturday.
Okay, we all know it’s cold outside! Fourteen below zero is not just cold, it’s c-c-c-c-cold! Even with the cold weather and snow we have had this winter, it has remained warm and quite cozy inside the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. Much of that has had to do with the entertainment we have experienced.
This Friday night, we bring Broadway once again to Van Wert with The Addams Family. Many of you remember the TV show from the 1960s. From this, as well as the movie series that more recently came out, we got to know the strangely adorable members of this “not-so-normal” family. From the TV show to the movie to the Broadway stage show, all the characters remain the same.
Here are a few comments from those who saw the show on Broadway: “This play was fun for the whole family, we loved it! It had us laughing from the beginning.” and “I really loved how funny the musical performance was. I laughed until I cried. I also enjoyed the incredible talent. Wednesday’s (one of the characters) singing voice is incredible. Uncle Fester was a little weird with the moon but it was still hilarious. I also enjoyed how they brought in modern day references.”
I just think that considering this long winter we have all experienced, we could all do well to gather in a warm, cozy atmosphere like the Niswonger Performing Arts Center and enjoy some good laughs, music and entertainment. Whaduya say? Sound like good medicine? Some tickets remain for this Friday’s 7:30 p.m. performance. The sooner you get them, the better your choice of seats.
Now is not too early to start thinking of Valentine’s Day either. February 14 falls on a Friday this year. We decided to book our Valentine’s Day show on Saturday, the 15th. I think we have one of the most appropriate Valentine’s Day shows possible in “The ‘Not So’ Newlywed Game” featuring none other than Bob Eubanks. How many of us grew up watching Eubanks’ Newlywed Game on TV? For a kid in the summer, watching the Newlywed Game, followed by the Dating Game was a regular occurrence. For eight and a half years, ABC televised the Newlywed Game into homes, bringing entertainment, laughter, love, and good-natured angst between newly married couples.
Eubanks is an American icon of TV game shows. He now brings “The ‘Not So’ Newlywed Game” to theaters around the world and Van Wert will be his stop this Valentine’s Day weekend. As I understand it, he will be showing film clips of hilarious moments on the TV show and give background commentary. Then, he will actually re-create the TV show on our Central Insurance Stage with couples he selects from the audience. We also have two local celebrity couples you won’t want to miss. It will be a guaranteed evening of fun and laughter. And of course, the couples will be competing for some very appealing prizes as well as parting gifts.
Finally, the weather has been wreaking havoc to the local school schedules. The music teachers have been trying to prepare students for the annual solo & ensemble contest and it has been quite a challenge. The superior musicians will overcome and rise to the top, however, and we look forward to showcasing them on February 16 at the Van Wert County Foundation sponsored Young Artists Recital at 3 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church sanctuary.
Keep warm and I’ll see you hopefully this Friday for a night of laughter and fun with the Addams Family!
Phew! Now that the holidays are over and my business travels are complete, I look forward to getting back into the regular swing of things. I know I have missed talking with you in the “Music in Van Wert” column the past few weeks. We just returned from New York City and are now ready to do the work of the people in the world of music and arts.
Today was actually a day of jumping right back into things with the Russian Ballet’s performance of “Cinderella.” I am writing now between the afternoon matinee and this evening’s public performance. Winter has returned with more snow, wind and frigid temperatures, but it was definitely warm inside the Niswonger today with about 600 children being entertained by a dance troupe from Russia in an art form we rarely see in these parts.
Thanks to Family Medicine Associates Inc. and The Motorists Insurance Group represented by Henkle Insurance, nearly 600 school children had the opportunity to witness a ballet, performed by world-class Russian dancers. As I was sitting in the balcony watching the matinee performance, it really hit me as to why it is important to expose young children to such an art form. I expressed my thoughts immediately afterward in a TV interview with WTLW Channel 44 of Lima. We hear from politicians who tell school administrators, who tell teachers, who tell parents and students just how important math and science are to our education. And they are right, but … one thing this performance of the ballet made students do today was use their imaginations. Anymore, we rarely offer the opportunities for kids to imagine and dream. Remember when you were a kid? On a sunny, warm day, you could sit in the grass and imagine, looking at clouds in the sky, sunbeams through the air, wind blowing and birds singing; these were all things we had time to do. Kids today (and adults too) don’t have time for this “frivolous” activity. We are too busy doing what others tell us we need to do.
Think about all the great inventions over the past century or two. I am sure they started with imagination. Even the things we’ve created now that take all our time, were started with imagination; the “what if” question. Employers today want and need mathematicians and scientists, but the world also really needs people who dream, imagine and create. This is what music offers. This is what the arts offer.
The children today watching the ballet may have had some idea of what the story of Cinderella is about, but they needed to use their imaginations to fit the dancing, music, movements, scenery and beautiful costumes together to make the story of Cinderella come to life for themselves. There were no words spoken or sung. Where else are we going to nurture this than in the arts? So the next time you hear someone talk about the arts as a frivolous or extra-curricular school activity, I encourage you to think about what I have just said.
There are many students who are rarely challenged on the creative side of the brain. That is a terrible oversight and disservice to their development. I applaud the school administrators who gave their students the opportunity today to attend a world-class ballet… and right here in Van Wert. Like I just told our Executive Secretary as he was leaving the building, “I’ll see you at the ballet tonight.” How cool is that, that we can say something like this in the town of Van Wert! You know corn and culture both start with the same letter.
As we end this year, we say farewell to the man who has called the shots at The Van Wert County Foundation for the past 17 years. Larry Wendel has held the position of executive secretary at The Van Wert County Foundation since 1996, replacing Robert Games, who had held the position for nearly 20 years.
In the time that Larry has overseen The Foundation’s operations, we have seen tremendous growth in not only financial value, but also in community impact. The scholarship program has grown and is still one of the backbones of the Foundation’s mission, helping local students with college expenses. In addition to this, we have established the Fountain Park Summer Music Series, the Sanctuary Music Series, the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio, and, most recently, the new location of the Wassenberg Art Center.
During my tenure as coordinator of performing arts for The Van Wert County Foundation, Larry has been supportive and provided the means for success. I can never thank Larry or The Foundation trustees enough for allowing me the opportunity to help make the performing arts more vibrant throughout the Van Wert area. Behind everything we do in performing arts, The Van Wert County Foundation has provided a quiet assurance that we can make it work.
Larry will still be around to help transition the leadership to a young and vibrant replacement in Seth Baker. I am convinced that Seth will bring a lot of energy to the position and, with Larry’s wise counseling, will be a great asset to The Foundation as well as the Van Wert community.
All of us associated with The Van Wert County Foundation wish Larry the very best in retirement and thank him for his years of commitment and outstanding contributions!
Happy New Year to all and I look forward to an exciting year ahead at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center!
As we near the end of the year, I like to look back and see where we have been and where we are heading. For those of us involved in performing arts, our year goes as the academic calendar does, September-May. I typically refer to it as a season, such as the 2013-14 season we are currently in.
This season, we have, or more appropriately, you have, set record attendance marks at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. Six out of 10 performances have been sold out, and those that did not sell out averaged over 900 seats sold! We have been blessed with some wonderful concerts and artists who have given us “over-the-top” performances. Our box office tells me there is never a day that goes by they are not entering a new address to our ever expanding list of 13,000 patrons.
We have received emails from first time attenders saying what a great experience they have had at the Niswonger. We appreciate hearing messages like this that confirm what we offer the region in performing arts. There is nothing like working to make people happy, especially in the area of music!
With performances by the likes of Michael W. Smith, Debby Boone, Under the Streetlamp, TBDBITL, Trace Adkins, Sonos Handbell ringers, Tony Orlando, Dave Koz & Friends, and, finally, Point of Grace, it is easy to see why people are flocking to the NPAC from all over. These performers are not only great musicians and entertainers, but are also superior individuals. It has been as much a pleasure working with them as it has been listening to them.
As we look into the new year, which represents the second half of our season, it is easy to continue to be excited. Outstanding performers such as Kellie Pickler and The Spinners join such wonderful shows as the beautiful Cinderella ballet, Broadway’s The Addams Family and West Side Story, and the humor of “The (Not So) Newlywed Game”, Church Basement Ladies, and HMS Pinafore … and that’s just a portion of what’s to come!
Gift cards have been flying out the box office window this holiday season. What a great and unique gift it is to give someone performances at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. We will continue selling right up through December 23 and then close on the 24th through the 26th for Christmas so we can all enjoy this special time of the season with our families. If you happen to be reading this and are from out of town, call our box office quickly and we will be happy to send gift cards to your loved ones. To make sure they arrive in time for Christmas, however, we would want to mail them by the end of this week — so hurry!
We look forward to some time off now after five Christmas concerts this season, but we are also planning on seeing so many of you again when we resume concerts in the new year with the adorable Kellie Pickler on January 25. Check the NPAC website at www.npacvw.org and Facebook for all the other shows and concerts coming in the new year. Until then, keep a smile on your face and know that all of us associated with the Niswonger Performing Arts Center wish you a very Merry Christmas!
As we approach Christmas time and many of us are thinking what to get those who are special to us, I would like to suggest a unique and special idea — a gift card from the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio. It’s flexible and can provide good times and lasting memories that can be shared with others.
We have already created some wonderful memories for so many this year. Just this past Saturday, nearly a thousand people shared some memorable time with legendary entertainer and singer Tony Orlando. I am still hearing from people on the street of what a wonderful time they had at the concert. We try to get performers to the Niswonger who give extra special performances and experiences for the audience member. Tony Orlando certainly delivered. We expect the same from Dave Koz & Friends Tuesday night and then again this Saturday with Point of Grace. I can almost guarantee it!
As we look forward, the new year brings all kinds of music and entertainment that anyone can enjoy with a gift card from the Niswonger. The Great Russian State Ballet will be performing Cinderella, Broadway’s Addams Family, “The (Not So) Newlywed Game” with Bob Eubanks and special local guest couples, The Spinners with all their great hits, and so much more are lined up for the second half of our season at the Niswonger PAC.
The kids and grandkids will especially enjoy Dinosaur Train and Jack Hanna’s jungle of animals he will bring with him. Giving a gift card gives someone the freedom to choose exactly what they want to attend and when they are able to attend.
Gift cards may be purchased at the Niswonger Box Office. Box-office hours are noon-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. You may even call the box office at 419.238.NPAC (6722) and have a card sent to you. We would be happy to mail them to you. Keep in mind that the box office will be closed December 24, 25, and 26, as well as December 31, January 1 and 2.
Each year we have local citizens who wish to take their family and friends, who are home visiting for the holidays, through our performing arts center. We are always happy to share with others what we are all so proud of. It’s an especially beautiful venue at the holidays. We thank our visual arts committee and Kandy Saunier for all the beautiful decorations throughout the center. If you can drop by during our regular hours of operation, one of our staff will be happy to assist you in showing off our beautiful performing arts center where “Inspiration is Alive” and memories are created and cherished!